Do you ever feel like Dr. Jeckl and Mrs. Hyde? For the most part, you walk through life with a pleasant smile, showing kindness, giving encouragement and then, in a split second, a switch is pulled and bam, you’re like, “Who left the dirty dishes in the sink?!!” Why are you driving so fast/slow?!!” “I don’t understand why you think XYZ!!”
Why, I often wonder, do I lose it like that?
And why is it usually with the people I love the most?
I don’t know about you, but after moments like these, I feel pretty low, embarrassed at my ugly outbursts. Sometimes the scene is followed by a heartfelt apology, sometimes not. Sometimes I allow pride to stand in the way of repentance, which only leads to feeling worse in the long run.
Why, I often wonder, do I lose it like that? And why is it usually with the people I love the most? Boy, I sure wish I could answer that question. My dear friend and mentor, Liz, told me years ago, “It’s sin, Diana! It’s sin.” At the time, I didn’t feel that was particularly helpful. “Yeah, I know it’s sin, but what do I do about it? I feel out of control in the moment, so how do I stop?”
They sprang from my sinful, perfectionist,
and controlling nature, which needed to be extinguished.
I had come to her looking for an instantaneous, magical solution. Perhaps she could wave her magic wand and make me nicer. Nope. No magic wand for me.
I think Liz’s point in calling my outbursts sin was to make sure I didn’t think they simply sprang from my “personality” and were not subject to change. They sprang from my sinful, perfectionist, and controlling nature, which needed to be reigned in. But back to the original question: How?
I wish I could say 20 years after discussing the situation with my dear friend that I no longer exhibit flashes of temper, that I’m sweet Sally Sue, walking through life with with unflappable peace and joy, able to overlook every frustration. I’m not her. I’m still me.
But if you’ll allow me, I’ll share a couple of “tricks” or coping mechanisms I believe the Lord has equipped me with. Does that sound good?
From various books I’ve read over the years and conversations I’ve had with wise people, the Lord has revealed a bit of wisdom to me on this matter. He has shown me that my outbursts are usually rooted in some kind of disappointment. Life is not going as I planned, and I’m anxious to apply blame, change the circumstances, and get a move on back to life-the-way-I-planned-it. Sound familiar?
Some people (okay, me) like to control outcomes, we like to do everything “right,” trying to make our family (and home) look good and act right. When things go as expected, we feel great, but when they don’t, boy do we get frustrated and angry, sometimes lashing out with unkind criticism or biting sarcasm. Let’s face it, these reactions demonstrate remarkable immaturity and show a complete lack of control on our part (oh irony of ironies).
Control is a desperate and impossible attempt
make life perfect and ordered.
But life is messy.
So how to bring my outbursts under control? This will come, in part, by recognizing my desire to control and accepting that not only is such control impossible, it’s wrong. The only one in real control is God; he alone is sovereign. Me, I need to relinquish my control to him and release my family from my attempts to control them. In my heated moments of frustration, I remind myself that mature people don’t control others. Control is a desperate and impossible attempt to make life perfect and ordered. I need to accept that life is messy and learn to roll with the punches.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, (Hebrews 4:12). That’s powerful stuff. God’s word cuts right through the heart of a matter, bringing truth and freedom in a miraculous way. Use it. That’s right. Don’t just read it, smile, and nod. Take a scripture that speaks to your situation, memorize it, pray it, and make it your own. Wield it like the weapon it is and let it cut you to your core. A verse the Lord gave me long ago that I have used in battle: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself, (Philippians 2:3-4).
Remember your verse and pray it when you’re feeling fine. Let it bury itself deep in your spirit so you’re prepared when trouble comes, because it will come. As sure as freezing temps in the northeast, my husband will ask, while standing before the refrigerator, “Where’s the milk?” And rather than a biting response, like, “In the door, where it’s always been.” I can instead take out my sword and cut the remark before it gets out. I’ll quote my scripture to myself. I’ll pray, “Lord keep me humble.” I’ll do some self-talk: “He has honestly overlooked the milk; he cannot see it. That doesn’t make him dumb. Respond kindly because you love him.” Wield your scripture like a sword.
Recognizing your inability to combat the sin in your life on your own, is another key factor in dealing with anger, or any other sin in your life. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus gave us power over sin: For sin will no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). Application of these words is, for most of us, a lifelong lesson; I feel I get glimpses of understanding along the way. It has something to do with relying on the Holy Spirit for help when you need it.
Often in a heated moment I will ask the Lord for grace. It won’t take the form of some long complicated formula, just simply a request for grace, something like, “Lord, I need grace” or “Grace please!” And so long as I cooperate with the Holy Spirit, I feel rescued; I sense him giving me the strength I need to handle the situation maturely and with the grace I asked for.
I’m writing this post today for myself, because I wanted to come clean about my weakness, but more importantly, I wanted to remind myself of the tools the Lord has given me to combat it and to remember to put them into practice every day. I’m tired of responding to others with frustration and impatience. I want to be a person who exercises mercy and grace in every situation. Thanks for listening.
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