During the occasional temper tantrum in our home (you’ll have to figure out whether I’m talking about our kids or their parents), someone often casts blame on another family member for their outburst: “But he/she/you made me angry!” At the Art of Marriage retreat that Trinity CRC hosted last month at Inspiration Hills, this quote jumped out at me:
The source of our anger is within each of us.
— No one else can “make us angry.”
We can have everything taken away from us except for one thing – how we’ll react to any given situation. Whether we become angry is a decision we make. It may seem to be impossible to respond any other way, but it only seems that way: By God’s grace and with prayer and practice, we can change the way we respond to situations that would otherwise provoke anger.
The Art of Marriage material provided a helpful checklist of what to focus on and what to avoid when a conversation gets heated and anger begins to build:
|– Focus on…||– Rather than…|
|one issue||many issues|
|the problem||the person|
|facts||judgment of motives|
|“I” statements||“you” statements|
|understanding||who’s winning or losing|
Apparently a lot of our anger stems from unfulfilled desires: We’re expecting one thing but end up with something else or perhaps nothing at all. It’s easy to become angry when our hopes remain unfulfilled or are shattered, whether it’s because chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is unavailable at the store today or because of a painful injustice that occurred years ago.
The Art of Marriage workbook encouraged Monica and I to “ask God and our spouse for wisdom regarding our desires,” that our desires would not be misplaced or unrealistic. “We need to bring our desires before God, genuinely seeking His direction, and ‘He will give you the desires of your heart’ (Ps 37:4b).”
I suspect that as I “take delight in the Lord” (Ps 37:4a), His desires will more and more become the very things I desire. And if I’m aligning my life, actions, and words to His desires, I suspect I’ll have fewer things to be angry about with myself, my wife and family, and the other people in my life.
I also blogged about the Art of Marriage here.
Calvin & Hobbes graphic found via Google. Anyone know
from which particular strip this originates? I’m guessing Calvin
is complaining about school or having to do homework…
I just remembered that it was Viktor E. Frankl in _Man’s Search for Meaning_ who wrote: “…Everything can be taken from [you] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way… Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom…”
[…] my best intentions, I’m not always so good at dealing with anger. I’m not alone with this problem, which means that opportunities to seek and grant forgiveness […]