Saturday, May 1, 2010

Anger, part 1: stuffing

“Be angry but don't sin” –Eph. 4:26

Parents get angry sometimes. Teenagers get angry sometimes. We all get angry. But the typical lesson on anger taught by most parents to their children is “never get angry.” It’s like teaching your kids not to eat. You say, “You kids don't eat right. You just eat junk food all the time, so here’s the new rule in this house: no more eating!” Ridiculous. Just like we need to teach our kids how to eat correctly, as parents, we need to teach our kids how to be angry correctly.

Paul the Apostle wrote tons on the issue of emotions and anger. Ephesians Chapter 4 is a blueprint on how to be angry correctly. Paul says to “get angry without sinning.” Apparently it is possible to have this thing called anger and it be okay. That word for anger is the Greek word orge, which means “a stirring of emotion that begins slowly.” Being stirred can be a good thing. But rarely do we deal with anger in a healthy and constructive way. When our emotions are stirred and we get upset, we react in several different ways.

Option 1 today: stuffing

Unfortunately, we are all good at stuffing anger. Paul says in Eph. 4 “not to let the sun go down on your anger.” Our emotions are stirred about something. Instead of running that emotion through the “filter,” we typically stuff or file it away. Not good. The filter involves praying about the situation, then either confronting the issue or letting it go. Letting it go is not stuffing it. Example: I’m frustrated with my teen because he’s on the JV and not the varsity. I run it through the filter. My “anger” or stirring is really just jealousy of my neighbor’s kid being on the varsity. I don't stuff it. I’m honest about it and choose to be happy for him and let it go. God uses the emotion. The other option to stuffing is to confront. I’m stirred because my teen was rude to his sister. Weeks earlier, we’d discussed that very issue and he asked me to hold him accountable. I run it through the filter. My motive is okay. He’s my son and I want the siblings to get along. I remember Proverbs 27:6 “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” So I confront him and he’s defensive at first, but accepts the rebuke. God uses the emotion.

The stuffing option is quick and convenient, but super destructive. The “stuffed to” file cabinet is a dark and ugly place filled with past hurts and stinky trash. Too many files can lead to bad anger, which the Greek calls thumos. Paul uses that word for anger too, but in a negative sense. Part of what we do at Shelterwood is unload that filing cabinet. Not easy, but so freeing. We’re at our best when the file cabinet is empty. We’re the healthiest emotionally when we’re about the 1 Cor. 13 principle of “not taking into account wrongs suffered.”

So keep that filter system running today. When, not if, you become stirred or angry, run it through the filter system. Don't react, but pray and then act. Either let it go- really let it go or confront the situation. Your teen knows more about your issues than you think. They are modeling what they see and experience. This is all a part of “training up.” Take a deep breath and let God use your anger in a healthy way as you run it through the filter and avoid the stuffing.

Option #2 coming next: shifting

By Joseph Staples ©

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