Nothing poisons your perspective like frustration

What frustrates you? Bad drivers? Repetitive noises? Stupid people in large groups? All of the above? Like so many other things in life, frustration itself isn’t the problem. It’s what you do because you’re frustrated that can be damaging.

Frustrated people do stupid things. It’s the truth. I saw something yesterday where a woman was killed in a road rage attack. Seriously. Somebody got frustrated at her bad driving and killed her? Yikes!

But that’s a pretty extreme example. What’s a lot more likely to happen is that you quit your job because you’ve had a bad day… or a string of them. And maybe quitting your job is what you need to do. Maybe it’s the best choice. Maybe it’s time. Or maybe you’re just in a tight spot at the moment and you just need to give yourself space to calm down before you make a rash decision.

579286_51266544_screamingToday’s verses are Proverbs 14:16-17.

The wise are cautious and avoid danger;
fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.
Short-tempered people do foolish things,
and schemers are hated.

Frustration affects your perspective. When you get frustrated about something—regardless of what it is—it changes the way you see your situation, the people around you, and yourself. And not in a positive way.

Something about being frustrated turns me from a generally pleasant person into a grouch. A seriously serious grouch. And, let me tell you, it’s dangerous to be around someone who specializes in words when they’re in a bad mood. I know exactly what to say to cut to the quick, and when I’m in a bad mood, all I really seem to want is for other people to be in a bad mood too. Probably so that I don’t feel like so much of a failure.

That doesn’t excuse it, but it might explain it.

If your perspective is off, your behavior will be too. Nothing poisons your perspective like frustration. And kind of like what I was talking about in yesterday’s post, our enemy is looking for anything he can use to upset us or to get us emotionally twisted.

So what do you do? How do you handle frustration when you’re about ready to flip your lid? How do you stay calm when all you want to do is scream and cry?

I can’t tell you I have the answer, but I know what works for me.

But what I’ve learned about myself is that when I start feeling that way, I need to step back. I need to just take a deep breath and try to convince my shoulders to stop climbing up my neck. I need to get away from my desk and my computer and my ever-regenerating collection of emails and take a walk. Someplace I can take deep breaths. Someplace I can feel the wind blowing. Someplace where I can regain my perspective.

I have so much good in my life. I have so many blessings, so many friends, so many gifts. I have been given so much, and I haven’t done anything to deserve it. And instead of focusing on why I’m upset, I start focusing on the things that are going right.

I’ve got a job. I’ve got a family. I’ve got money to hike to Quiznos and buy a salad for lunch. Fall weather is back, and if I want a pumpkin latte, I can buy one. Give yourself ten minutes to think about the good things in your life, and I guarantee you won’t be as frustrated when you’re done.

Granted, you’ve got to face the same frustrations over again when you come back, but if you take the time to breathe first, you might see them differently. You might not, but trust me, it’s worth trying to calm down first before you do something rash.

So many times we do things in anger or frustration without really thinking about the consequences, and we shouldn’t. We should always consider the consequences before we act—not after. Don’t let your frustration become the reason why you do something foolish. Give yourself the time to calm down and try to see things in a different light before you do something you can’t take back.

In the heat of the moment, all you want to do is get away. All you want to do is make everybody else as angry as they’ve made you. But if you can hold on and maintain your calm long enough to get your head back on straight, you might prevent yourself from doing something you’d regret for the rest of your life.

Sun setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

How can you stop being angry?

I don’t get angry easily. It takes a special person to really make me mad. I get frustrated, sure. I get snappy, yeah. But angry? Not usually. Unless the situation is just right or (and this is more likely) my current problem is a result of my own actions.

This happened the other day. Without going into the gory details, let’s just say I got mad. I got really mad. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that upset. And the day didn’t get any better. It just kept getting worse. I couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t find a solution. I couldn’t do anything about any of it. And the more I kept messing things up, the more angry I got.

When I get that angry, I tend to shift blame. That’s my first response. Isn’t it everyone’s? It’s not my fault. I’m not the one who such-and-such. Or if he/she would just let me do my job, this wouldn’t have happened. Anyone else ever experience that?

Well, I hate to tell you this, but getting angry about it isn’t the right way to handle it.

Sun setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sun setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 1:19-21.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

God has some harsh things to say about anger. He doesn’t say it’s wrong. No, anger can be useful at times to stimulate us into action. But anger can rapidly rage out of control, especially when the focus of your anger is wrong.

Don’t ever make anger your first response. Maybe it’s what you feel first, but that doesn’t mean it’s what you have to express first. First, you need to listen. You need to take a deep breath and slow down and refocus. Then, when you’re calmer, pay attention.

In my situation, I was ready to blow up. Seriously. Those of you who know me know how rare that is, but I was totally on the brink. Absolutely ready to chuck it all in the corner and give up completely.

But a nagging little voice at the back of my brain started whispering louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it. The voice kept asking the same question: “Who are you really angry at?”

It’s a good question to ask when you’re angry because most of the time the people we take our anger out on aren’t the people we’re actually even angry with. They’re just convenient targets.

So I took a deep breath. I hid in a quiet place for a little while until I could think straight. I asked God to take the blinder off and give me courage to face the truth.

I was angry at me. Because I was in a situation of my own making. Unwise choices. Consequences. Nothing earth shaking. Just irritating. And absolutely, 100% my fault. No one else’s.

And when God gave me the strength to face that fact, my anger actually went away, and it turned into a fierce desire to make things right again, to never get to that place again, to make the decisions I need to make and act on them immediately.

So who are you angry at today? Who made you angry? Who are you dealing with in your life who you think is the central focus of your anger? Are you sure that’s really the person you’re angry at?

Whoever you’re angry at, figure out a way to sort it out because anger left to simmer gets stronger and hotter as the years go by, and before you know it, that little bitty flame will grow into something you can’t control, a fire that blazes and destroys everything in its path.

Don’t be afraid to discover it’s yourself you’re angry at. Being angry at yourself is actually the best possible outcome because with God’s help, you can change your attitude. And our attitude is usually where everything starts.

The dread mulberry bumper smasher at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Anger causes more trouble than it fixes

My driveway is still full of snow. I guess 17 inches doesn’t go away as quickly as you’d expect. The road graders have come through at least, so the dirt road and the blacktop are clear, but to get out of my driveway you have to plow through a drift as high as your waist.

I tell you all that to explain the photo I picked to go with the devotional today. Because my driveway is still covered in knee-high drifts of snow, I can’t get back into my garage. So I’ve been parking under the tree in the photo. It’s a lovely male mulberry (yes, trees can be male or female, did you know that?). And yesterday morning, in the dark and the subzero temperatures, I struggled out to my car and got in. And it still takes some doing to escape, so you have to go forward and go backward. Well, because it was dark and early and my coffee hadn’t started working yet, I neglected to remember that there was a tree behind me as I was backing up.

Yup. Backed right into it. Put a nice big old dent in my trunk and a crack in my bumper. This makes the second stationary object I’ve backed into in a year. There’s nothing that makes you feel like a worse driver. And there’s nothing that can make me angrier at myself.

Everyone has their buttons that shouldn’t be pushed. Everyone has that breaking point in their lives that just requires the right amount of prodding to send them into a fury. Do you know yours? Some anger is okay. Anger on its own isn’t a sin. On the contrary, anger can sometimes be useful in getting things done. But lingering anger? Lasting anger? Not such a good idea. And anger shouldn’t be our main motivation anyway.

The dread mulberry trunk smasher at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The dread mulberry trunk smasher at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 1:19-20.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

I was so angry at myself yesterday, but my first inclination is to do what everybody does. Not blame myself. I don’t want to take the blame for neglecting to notice that tree. So I started hurling accusations, but that didn’t last long because the only others that could possibly be blamed for the whole thing was whoever manufactured my car with such a small back window and God for making it snow. So as you can imagine, my accusation hurling didn’t last very long before I realized I was being ridiculous and just needed to accept responsibility.

But that’s what anger does. It sharpens your tongue while it dulls your mind. You don’t think about the blame you’re placing; you just don’t want it to be your fault. And that’s where we lose track of God’s righteousness.

The trouble with anger is that developing the wisdom and patience to overcome it takes a long time. Anger is like a fire or like a blizzard–it’s overwhelming, relentless, and usually shouldn’t be braved alone. Being slow to anger, as James puts it, is a habit. It doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a choice you have to make over and over again until it becomes second nature.

It’s not impossible. It’s just hard work.

So the next time you’re tempted to get angry, take a moment and think. Ask yourself what you’re really angry about because half the time our anger stems from something completely unrelated to our current situation. So identify it. Figure out what’s making you angry. And then face it. Don’t hide it or stuff it in a closet. Don’t deny it. Deal with it. Understand it. And if it really is something you have done, don’t shift the blame to someone else. Don’t pass the responsibility on to another person if it’s yours.

We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn. Getting angry about those mistakes turns you into a fool because you’re too busy trying to pin the blame on someone else unfairly to learn the lesson you need.

What did I learn? Check the flippin’ back window before I back up. We’ll see how well I learned when I go to work this morning because I’m still parked in the same place.

Don’t get angry. Learn your lesson and move on.

 

Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Keep lice away from your liver

I love language. I love English, I love other languages, and I love trying to make sense of a language I don’t speak in the language I do. I work with some people from Germany, one of whom I’m pretty close to. She and her husband are moving back to Germany this coming Saturday, and Friday is her last official day in the office. I’m going to miss her terribly. What’s more, I’m going to miss our hilarious conversations about language and idiom.

As a fellow lover of languages, my friend and I have had many conversations comparing English to German and vice versa. We had the chance to have lunch together one last time yesterday, so we jumped at it and ran down to our “regular” place, a cozy little restaurant called Caffe Moderne. It was soggy and somewhat nasty outside, not exactly cold but not warm either. I pulled into the parking lot, looking for a space close to the restaurant—not because either of us are lazy but because my friend is about six months pregnant.

I was heading for the parking garage across the plaza, but I thought I’d make one more circuit just in case a spot opened. Well—one did. So I drove up to it and parked. We climbed out and started to go into the restaurant, and this car pulled up behind us, and the lady inside started shouting at us about how we’d stolen her parking space. My first response was horror because I certainly hadn’t intended to do anything of the sort, and I indicated my friend and her obviously pregnant state. The lady’s response shocked me: she shouted, “I don’t care!” and drove off.

Neither of us really knew how to react. I actually felt really bad about it, but I hadn’t seen her waiting for the spot. If she’d been that dead set on it, we certainly wouldn’t have minded giving it to her, but we’re not mind readers. And, seriously, to roll down your window and shout at two strangers about how they stole your parking place? When one of them is obviously pregnant? Really, lady?

Afterward, once my friend and I had calmed down some, we got to talking about how we could have handled it differently. And my friend told me I should have asked her if a louse had crawled across her liver. If it were any other German, I would think they didn’t know English, but my friend is fluent in both, and as much as we love to compare idiom, I knew this had to be something in German.

Ihm ist eine Laus über die Leber gelaufen. Literally it means, “A louse ran across his liver.” It’s used to indicate that someone is in a bad mood. What’s more, it’s used to indicate that someone is in a bad mood about something that doesn’t matter. It’s a problem the size of a louse.

Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 14:29.

People with understanding control their anger;
a hot temper shows great foolishness.

I can sit here and criticize this grouchy woman in the car all day long, but how many times have I been in her shoes? Granted, I’ve never rolled down my window and chastised a pregnant woman for taking my parking place. But how many times have I gotten my undies in a twist over things that don’t matter? How many mole hills have I turned into mountains? How much trouble have I caused myself trying to prepare for something that never happens?

I don’t want to admit how often I get irritated or frustrated by life in general. I’d like to think I’m fairly good at letting stuff roll off, but I’m not nearly as talented at it as I should be. If it were up to me, I’d say I’m probably a better person than the lady in the car because I don’t take out my frustrations on other people. I don’t automatically, selfishly assume that everyone who gets between me and what I want is intentionally trying to hurt me. But I feel that way. Just because I don’t express those feelings out loud doesn’t mean I haven’t felt them, that I haven’t thought them, that my heart hasn’t whispered those things to me and I let myself believe them. So there’s no better person in this circumstance; there’s just one who does a better job of keeping her mouth shut.

So am I saying that we shouldn’t get upset about stuff? Not at all. There are some things in life that are worth speaking up about. There are some instances where you need to speak up and try to stop what is about to happen or to try to prevent something from happening again in the future, and there’s no cookie cutter description to identify those times. You just have to choose them for yourself. That goes back to choosing which hill you want to die on.

But think before you speak. Give yourself a moment to consider what you’re getting upset about before you shoot your mouth off. Ask yourself if you’re being unreasonable and talk through it logically, and if you can’t talk through it logically, you’re too upset to be communicating with anyone. It’s very likely that the person you’re getting ready to spit nails at doesn’t even realize you’re upset with them.

All I can say is that I’m glad this lady didn’t have an ichthys on the back of her car. If she did, I’d have something else to say about her behavior.

In any case, the more upset you get about things that don’t matter, the more idiotic you look to the people you’re screaming at. You may think you’re standing up for your right to park, but really you’re just demonstrating an immense lack of self-control. And then when you top it off by implying that a pregnant woman should just be grateful to hike across a parking lot in the rain, you’re just coming off like a psycho.

Let it go. There’s more to life than where you get to park your car, although I doubt anyone in Wichita ever believed that. There’s more to life and living than the tiny little insignificant issue you’re facing right now. To draw from the German idiom, keep lice away from your liver.

Life is bigger than its tiny irritations. Stay focused on the things that matter. Trust me; your life will be much happier. And you’ll be far less likely to irritate the writer who intends to use you as an example of childish behavior in every blog post, short story, dramatic sketch, and novel from here to kingdom come. Maybe this lady should apply for a job at Verizon….

Dandelions in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Nobody wants to kill a pansy

I don’t know when, but something happened in our culture that changed our perspective of what a Christian is supposed to act like. People look at the way someone acts and determines from their behavior that “they’re not very Christian” or they’re not a “good” Christian simply by merit of how they behave, when the truth is that being a Christian has less to do with our behavior and more to do with the state of our heart.

That’s not to say that our actions are meaningless. That’s the not the case at all. The distinction should be made that a Christian never loses his or her temper or never gets angry or never demands anything. The distinction comes with why and how. I’ve heard people say that Christians should never be angry. I’ve heard people say that Christians should never get upset. And part of me agrees with that, especially when you consider the reasons why most people get angry or upset.

Most anger in our world comes from petty unimportant things. We lose our tempers over the smallest problems, issues that don’t mean anything. And as Christians, we shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to be angry about things that are worth it.

Dandelions in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dandelions in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 21:12-13.

Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

This passage out of Matthew is one I’ve turned to many times when I feel angry about something, strangely enough. It reminds me that being angry isn’t a sin, especially when that anger is just. But there’s a lot happening in this passage. This marks a time when Christ returned to Jerusalem, and what He found in the Temple was shocking. Culturally, I’m not sure if we can understand what’s going on here without taking a lot of time to do an in-depth study, but basically what’s happening is that the market people inside the Temple who were supposed to be fair when they sold animals for people to sacrifice were cheating people. That’s probably the easiest way to explain it.

And it made Jesus angry. The Temple was supposed to be a sacred place where people came to worship God, and because of greed and selfishness, people had turned into something it was never meant to be. Notice how He handled His anger, though. He didn’t curse. He didn’t lose control. He didn’t direct His anger at one person. He simply righted the problem, and He backed up His actions with Scripture.

Okay. Throughout the month of May, I’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit, as recorded in Galatians 5:22-23 (But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). The Fruit I’m focusing on today is gentleness (πρᾳότης). But what does that have to do with anger?

The version of the Bible that I learned this passage in didn’t use the term gentleness. It used meekness, which honestly isn’t a term you hear in 21st Century America often. A more accurate definition is: “displaying the right blend of force and reserve, strength in gentleness, avoids unnecessary harshness, yet without compromising or being too slow to use necessary force.”

Meekness is quiet strength. It’s inner calm and humility that doesn’t hesitate to bash skulls when it’s needed. And it absolutely doesn’t mean that you take conflict lying down.

Too many times I think Christians get this idea that being gentle, humble, meek means that we don’t get to stand up for what’s right. Too many times I think we embrace this concept that Jesus was this soft-spoken pansy who never challenged anyone. And anyone who believes that hasn’t read the Gospels. Jesus challenged everyone. He challenged everything. He took the preconceived notions of how life was supposed to be and turned them on their heads. He angered the religious leaders to the point where they conspired to put Him to death.

Let’s face it, folks. Nobody wants to kill a pansy. If anything, people like that are ignored, written off, neglected. They’re easy to push to the sidelines. And nobody was able to do that with Christ.

Christ was a blue-collar worker. A carpenter. An average man like anyone else. Isaiah tells that He wasn’t even handsome, unlike the beautiful glowing portraits people have painted over the years. I guarantee He didn’t look like that.

But He wasn’t a zealot either. Christ is the best example of meekness in Scripture. He’s called the Lamb of God, but He’s also called the Lion of Judah. How can one person be both a lion and a lamb? That’s meekness. Maybe it sounds like a paradox, but it’s not. It’s a Fruit of the Spirit. It’s evidence that God is working in your life.

So what does that mean for us today? How do we demonstrate meekness in our lives? What’s worth getting angry about? And how do you show anger without sin? Because anger on its own isn’t sin, but anger can drive us to sin, and we need to deal with it before it gets to that point.

It comes down to Scripture and having a relationship with Christ. It’s okay to be angry when the church doesn’t line up with Scripture. It’s okay to be angry when God is misused in culture. It’s okay to be angry when Jesus is mocked and openly misrepresented, whether by believers or nonbelievers alike. But our response needs to be Scriptural too. Now, I don’t really think any of us can walk into a materialistic church and start kicking people out and turning over tables. I don’t think that’s necessarily a scriptural response, especially in our culture right now.

But there’s nothing wrong with speaking out. There’s nothing wrong with getting to the bottom of why people are doing what they’re doing. Maybe they’re doing these things out of ignorance, and then it becomes our duty to teach them. But however we choose to deal with a situation that makes us angry, we need to remember meekness. It’s that balance between anger and love. It’s the balance between standing up for what’s right and speaking truth in love, and that’s not something we can do on our own. That’s something God has to do through us. That’s something He has to speak through us.

And so when you get angry, first make sure it’s not coming from some unresolved issue in your own heart. And then, when you choose to act, make sure you ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Because while anger is a useful tool, it has done more damage in the church and in lives and in relationships than anything else. When we turn our anger over to God, He’ll take care of it, and when we trust our actions to the Holy Spirit, He’ll help us say what we need to say and do what we need to do.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Angry thoughts make an angry life

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more careless about what I say. When I was younger, I guarded my tongue 24/7. I never said what I thought. I was afraid to even raise my hand to answer questions in Sunday School because I didn’t want to get an answer wrong. But something happened as the years passed and the careful watch over what I say has begun to fade. No, I don’t go around just spouting off, but I certainly will tell you what I’m thinking now.

And that’s good and bad. Both. Yes, it’s good to be confident enough to speak your mind, but speaking your mind isn’t always wise. Sometimes it’s better to remain silent. Everyone knows that we can get in trouble for the things we say out loud, but there’s never been a muzzle for our minds. Maybe there should be, because that was one of the things Christ talked about in the Sermon on the Mount.

How do you think? Are your thoughts full of selfishness? Are your thoughts full of anger and pride? Maybe you’re a master of keeping your thoughts to yourself, but eventually what you think is going to affect the way you live.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:21-22.

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

This statement was revolutionary, and it still is. Of course, killing someone is wrong, but just being angry at someone? And I should clarify. The Amplified Version is a little more specific on this. This is today’s passage in the Amplified Version:

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.

The anger this verse is talking about refers to a consistent state of anger or the act of harboring malice against someone. Anger on its own isn’t bad or wrong, but what anger forces you to do in many instances is. The Bible does say it’s all right to be angry, but it doesn’t say that doing something wrong is right–ever.

Notice it doesn’t say that harboring anger against someone is all right if they deserve it. Believe me, I know a lot of people who deserve my anger, but the Bible doesn’t say I can be angry at them if they deserve it. It says not to be continuously angry at all. Well, I guess it doesn’t say not to be angry. But it does say that if you are, you’ll face consequences.

Why? Well, how you think has a huge effect on how you live. Eventually your outside life is going to match your inside perspective, so you’d better make sure that your heart is straight so the rest of you will be too.

I just came off four very long days. I had to be in downtown Wichita starting this past Sunday at 2:30 p.m. I didn’t get a chance to take a breath until last night at 9:00 p.m. when I walked in the door of my house. My company’s national sales meeting is a big deal every year. It’s one of the biggest things we do as a marketing department, and this year it was even crazier because our department was in charge of a breakout session (that I somehow ended up responsible for). So I logged about 7 hours on Sunday, and then on Monday I worked 14 hours. Tuesday, I worked 17 hours. Wednesday I worked 12 hours. And on Thursday, I was really hoping to be able to catch up with everything that had stacked up while I was out, but I didn’t get to. Why? Well–let’s just say, a project popped up that demanded my attention whether I wanted to give it or not.

I’m not going to go into details because it’s not important. What matters is that I was angry about it. Oh boy, was I angry. And most of that anger stemmed from the fact that I was exhausted and overwhelmed and frustrated. I would have been better served just going home, but I had too much to do. So I stayed and kept getting more and more frustrated and more and more angry. And I couldn’t even finish it because I ended up needing input from someone who wouldn’t answer their phone. (And that’s when my director intervened and told me to go home because I looked exhausted. Thank God for bosses who notice those things.)

But even as I left, I was still angry. Almost at the verge of tears because now not only did I have to do this stupid project that didn’t matter, I couldn’t even do it without help. And for a performance-driven perfectionist like myself that’s the last straw.

So I did what any other single, self-sufficient, independent-minded, 21st Century working woman would do in these circumstances … I went to my parents’ house and took a nap.

And I woke up and felt much better. But I was still angry.

I was driving home in the dark last night just thinking about my anger and where it was coming from and why I couldn’t let it go. And so much of it came from my own frustration and my irritation at the whole situation. And, yes, there are some issues that need to be addressed, but being angry about it doesn’t help. And I’m not an angry person by nature, so anger turns me into someone that I’m not. And it’s someone that I don’t like.

So as I was drifting off to sleep (deep, wonderful, blissful sleep in my very own bed in my very own room) last night, I let it go. When compared to everything else that’s going on in my life right now, this whole situation is minor. It’s small. It’s not worth the effort of holding on to it. And I woke up this morning feeling like a new person, ready to go in and face this situation with a clear head and a calm spirit.

Am I going to get angry again? Well … if you know me and you know the situation I’m dealing with, you’ll understand when I say: Probably. But I’m going to try not to. And I’m not going to hold on to it. I’m going to let it go. Because if my thoughts are angry, my actions will be too. And that’s not right. It’s not fair to people around me, and it’s not a very good way to show how much Christ loves people.

Yes, anger has its place, and yes, anger is useful in some instances for motivating people. But it’s not the life we’re supposed to live. And it’s not the way we’re supposed to think.

So if you’re angry today or if you’re facing a circumstance that is probably going to make you angry, let it go. Be angry, recognize that you’re angry, and stop. Tell God about it. Even if you can’t tell the people around you about it, tell God. Yes, He already knows, but talking about it always helps me. And once you’ve got it off your chest, release it and don’t take it up again. Don’t let it penetrate your thoughts because your thoughts have an impact on how you live. And Christ-followers are called to live differently.

Pincushion flower (I think) - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

It takes two to stay angry.

We live in an angry world. Have you noticed that? Everyone is angry. Everyone has a short temper. We all lose patience with each other far more easily than we should, and there’s always someone to blame.

Anger isn’t wrong on its own, of course. Anger itself isn’t a sin. On the contrary, anger is useful in some instances to spur action. There are times when anger is necessary. Even Jesus got angry. But anger is one of those emotions you have to guard very carefully because what we tend to do as a result of our anger is often sinful. So, yes, anger can be useful in small doses, but who wants to live that way?

How do we survive in an angry world full of angry people? Do you answer anger with anger?

Most of the anger people in our world are feeling right now isn’t useful anger. It’s self-absorbed indignation. It’s hatred or rage because they feel they’ve been mistreated. Or they feel like life isn’t treating them fairly. Or its directed at a person or a people group. Or it’s anger for the sake of anger.

Some people just like to fight. And I’m not talking about cheerful debate. I mean out-and-out quarrelling. And they’re not happy until they can have a good old-fashioned knock-down, drag-out fight.

I try to stay away from people like that. But what happens when avoidance doesn’t work? What happens when you work with someone who likes to fight? What happens when you live with someone who likes to fight? What do you do then?

Centurea flower - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Centurea flower – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Proverbs 15:1.

A gentle answer deflects anger,
    but harsh words make tempers flare.

This is one of those verses that doesn’t really make sense straight off the bat. Frankly, from our perspective, if you answer an angry person with kind words, you’re going to be steamrolled. They will just roll you over and keep going, and all you will have accomplished is to provide them with a target.

Right? Has anyone else ever thought that about this verse?

But here’s the thing about human relationships: it takes two.

Relationships, whether they are romantic or friendships or familial or whatever, require that at least two people interact with each other. That’s what a relationship is. If you’re just by yourself, that’s not a relationship. You have to have someone else with you. Kind of like you can’t have a real conversation by yourself (unless you’re an author, and you’re just talking to yourself … but even then you likely are creating a conversation between two characters).

If you start a conversation with someone, the tone of that conversation doesn’t just depend on one person. It depends on both of you.

If both of you are saying kind things to each other, the tone will remain kind (and probably very mushy). If both of you are yelling at each other in anger, you both will continue to be angry. But if one person is angry, and the other remains calm and kind, eventually the anger will run out.

A speaker at a conference I attended said that the limit that one person can yell at another person without response is two minutes. Granted, that two minutes will feel like an eternity, but that’s as long as they can go without having someone yell back.

Anger is exhausting, emotionally and physically. And if there’s no anger in response, it starves. If someone pushes you and you push back, you will feed each others’ motion indefinitely. But if only one of you is pushing, eventually they’ll run out of steam. And they’ll stop.

And it’s the same thing with anger.

So if someone yells at you, don’t yell back. If someone pushes you (emotionally or physically), don’t push back, although if they physically push you, you might want to consider calling the police. Obviously I’m not talking about issues of domestic violence. That’s another topic altogether.

But in normal interpersonal relationships, answer angry words with kind words. It’s difficult. It’s not instinctive. Instinct is to snap back. But instincts are usually sinful because we are sinful people. Don’t run away from it. Yes, step back from it, but always answer, always give a reason for why you’re stepping back and be kind about it. And if see how long that anger lasts.