Monday, May 3, 2010

Anger, part 2: shifting

“Be angry but…let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” –Eph. 4

We’ve been discussing anger. Lesson 1 was about stuffing. Sometimes when we get angry, instead of dealing with the anger, we stuff it and file it away. It’s efficient but damaging. But when we filter through the source of the anger, we discover it’s either helpful or hurting. Either way, we act on the anger and put it away or use it to confront a brother.

Today we discuss option 2: shifting.

Blame shifting is the process where responsibility for a problem is shifted from one person to another. When a problem presents itself and we get angry, often we look for a person to blame. We prefer to point the finger at someone else. When the accident occurs, we blame the highway department; when the team loses, we blame the coach; when the storm hits, we blame the National Weather Service; when the oil slick appears, we blame the government. More importantly here, when our teenager is less than what we expect, we blame them. Why? Because if someone else is at the source of the problem, then we have no responsibility to fix the problem and our anger is justified.

When we are “stirred” or angered over something, we reach a crossroads every time. Do we own the emotion and deal with it in a healthy way or do we look for someone to blame? We’d rather critique and judge someone else for creating the situation that stirred us. It’s the easier route. Then we can gripe and complain all day long. But if we own our part in the difficulty, then we are required to help solve the problem in a constructive way.

In Ephesians Chapter 4, Paul challenges us to “be angry but don't sin.” Then he challenges us to own the anger. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth except that it’s good for edification, for the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” In other words, help solve the problem. My mom used to say, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.” That’s sound wisdom, but this goes deeper. If you don't have anything good to think in your heart about someone, then do something about it.” Either forgive, confront, or drop it.

We counteract shifting when we own it. Grace is a powerful thing. It’s a Monday night with our teenager. The track meet went late and she is behind in studying for the test tomorrow. We’re angry because she might do poorly on the test tomorrow. Don't gripe at them. Choose to own it and help her study. Take her a snack. Edify. Help the need. Give grace. That is Paul’s challenge.

Shifting points the finger at someone else. Love points the finger at me and challenges me to do something edifying with my “stirring up” or anger. It’s always the best choice to love your teenager.

Next: option 3: putting away.

By Joseph Staples ©

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