Sometimes we look pretty Godless, El Chupacabra (her husband) and I. And it’s not because we’re some hipster Christians who act that way on purpose to be “relevant” or something. It’s because we’re just not letting God in, to be part of what we’re doing here on His Earth. We don’t always seek Him, or listen to Him, or obey Him – even when we know we should. We look Godless sometimes because… well, we are Godless sometimes. And it’s ugly. And sad.
This life has taken its toll on El Chupacabra and me, and how we’ve run short of Love and Grace and Mercy for one another. Having been married since we were children, we carry with us the tenderness of life long friends, but also the familiarity of inbred cousins. When we argue, which is often, we lose our minds – saying the same things again and again, and ending with a venomous chorus of “Screw you!”, “No, screw YOU!”, “NO, SCREW YOU!!” – until we’re both just too tired to keep shouting about who ought to be screwed.
I read this, smile, and sigh!
I smile: she is being honest and liberating. Because sometimes even committed Christians “lose their minds,” as she says.
And confessing your sins to one another, being honest, even on a blog, is liberating. Both for yourself–how freeing to chuck that mask!!–and for other people who similarly blow it, and secretly wonder if they are damaged goods, and inferior Christians. And who might be tempted to wear a mask and hide the reality. And then begin to suspect everyone else of wearing masks!!
I sigh, because I recognise a Roy and Anita.
I sigh, because that is simply not the way to deal with anger, as of course, Jamie knows.
* * *
I have been married for 26 years. Anger was a volatile issue in our marriage at first. I had to get help to deal with it in a constructive way.
There is huge energy and power in anger. It’s a red light that tells you something is wrong. Perhaps in you, or in the relationship, in the life you’re living, in the way you are being treated, in your idols, in your goals and priorities, in your attitude.
Anger is a scream of protest and a cry for change—either internal, within you, or external, in family or relationship dynamics. It must be heeded.
Slowing down and processing your anger with Jesus, and, if necessary with a trusted friend, or a good professional counsellor, is vital. It is a volcano within you. You can’t tell it sit down and be nice. If not processed, it will explode in inappropriate, uncontrollable ways, or simmer within as lava, scaring others off, ruining your life, your productivity, your sleep, and, probably, your health.
Listen to your anger, question it, talk to it, talk about it with trusted others, make the necessary changes in your life, or attitude. Don’t ignore it, because this intruder will take over more and more of your thought-life, and heart. Make anger your ally to bring about constructive change.
* * *
So when our deep anger with each other began impacting our work, our sleep, our health, our parenting, I got help. So did Roy, separately.
Remember this about anger: You are responsible for your reactions. You are responsible for your behaviour. While it’s best if you change in tandem, as we now do, you can also change alone.
An older friend who was also training as a Christian therapist worked with me on anger. And I met weekly with a wonderful mentor.
She quoted her friends, missionaries to Africa: anger is akin to demonic possession. People controlled by anger, letting rip in a tantrum behave and sound much as the demon-possessed do. They even look similar! It’s no accident that in American conversation, the word “mad” is commonly used for angry. “It makes me so mad.”
That made me more determined to get my anger under control.
* * *
How? The most useful tip I’ve found is talking to Jesus. Telling him honestly how I feel. Just go on telling him. Write it all down, which is cathartic.
And then, shut up and listen to what Jesus says.
I find thanking and praising God for all the good things in the person I am angry with also helps.
I really enjoy using reason, rather than emotion. What am I angry about? Can this situation be resolved? How would I like to see it resolved? Can I discuss and analyse it the person involved, so that it doesn’t recur.
And what if it’s a really annoying person you have to work with at church, say, and its not really appropriate to process your complicated emotions with them, face to face? You might need to make changes within yourself then—meditate on their good points, ask God to give you love for them, or just shrug your shoulders and smile at their annoyingness.
* * *
But the absolute truth is: I did not really get control of my anger. Someone got control of me. I just cannot rise to the same heights of anger as I did. The sort of thing which would have infuriated me, I can now dispassionately consider, and decide on the best course of action. I guess my favourite Lion has changed my heart.
I think it’s God’s spirit in my heart, warning me, tempering my reactions, restraining me. I very soon get tired of the shouting, and retreat to the cave of Christ to let the lion lick my wounds, tell him my sob story, receive his balm for my spirit, and chat with him as to how best to proceed. Or not. Sometimes other people’s outbursts can be ignored. Not every “screw you” needs to be one-upped!