You are angry!
Your son just had a minor accident with the car, your golf game for tomorrow got canceled, your neighbor called to remind you your grass is too high and you can’t stop thinking that your boss is giving you too much work and not enough appreciation. You are raising your voice, your face is flushed. If one more crazy thing happens, you will explode! The kids are bracing for the next outburst.
Then you feel the buzz from your phone. You look and see it’s your boss, the one who doesn’t appreciate you. You answer the phone in a calm, relaxed voice and tell your boss you were just thinking about him and how can you help.
Wait, what just happened? How could a parent go from out-of-control anger and outrage to a patient, controlled calm instantly? How is such a radical transformation possible? There is only one answer:
You can control your anger!
Your anger is a choice. This is good news if you are an angry parent. You don’t have to continue to choose to be controlled by your anger!
You have made anger into a dominating, habitual response. You feel controlled by your anger. But remember the phone call and the other times you have actually controlled your anger, almost without thinking. As Jay Adams says:
“The basic problem in controlling anger is not a problem of inability to control yourself, but self-centeredness and poor decision-making about where and when to control yourself and bad habits growing out of both.”
The root problem is that you have established behavior patterns that you think are impossible to change. But, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit in his word, you can be free from the tyranny of anger. You can change from habitual anger to habitual peace. Yes, that change is possible! Listen to how Paul and James tell you how to implement this change:
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19-20)
“ Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
Here are 5 steps the will allow you to take control of your anger:
• Be quick to show gratitude.
• Be quick to listen.
• Be slow to speak.
• Be slow to become angry.
• Be quick to repent.
In other words, be a person who is constantly thankful, who is quick to use your ears and slow to use your mouth! Let’s look briefly at each step.
Gratitude is toxic to anger.
Paul says you should always be grateful no matter what your circumstances are. This is because God is always faithful, Christ is constantly praying for you, and you have the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to bring honor to God. Even in difficult times gratitude is always appropriate and needed to have clarity. Gratitude is toxic to anger.
Be quick to listen.
If your ears and heart are open to listening, your mouth will be closed. For an angry person, this is a good thing. If you are focused on listening to others in order to love them, anger will lose its foothold in your life. Being eager to listen means that you won’t be as eager to be angry.
Be slow to speak.
This means being slow to speak with your mouth and with your thoughts. Angry responses and words occur in the heat of the moment. Being committed to careful, thoughtful speech will keep anger from doing its damage. How many times have you burst out in anger only to immediately regret it? A commitment to be slow and lovingly intentional with your words is essential to breaking free from habitual anger.
Be slow to become angry.
By following the first three steps above, you have already begun to pursue a path of peace instead of anger. Your anger should be reserved for the righteous anger that honors God. Righteous anger is never out-of-control and hurtful to others. Righteous anger draws you closer to God. Therefore, be slow to become angry so that you can be sure that you are honoring God and not yourself. As James warns, man’s anger will not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
Be quick to repent.
An angry parent must become intimately familiar with repentance; repentance that quickly acknowledges anger and shows your family that you are turning away from your sinful patterns. Repentance means that instead of being an angry parent, you become a parent that is more concerned with grace rather than retribution. Repentance brings life to your family.
Seek God for the patience and grace to break the habits of destructive anger in your life. Follow these five steps so that you can control your anger and find God’s peace for your life.
This post originally appeared on Shepherd Press and was republished with permission.
Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, and he is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.