Daily Proverbial, 31 January 2012

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. Proverbs 29, verse 22.

I can’t think of a better lesson to teach kinds than this one: kids, control your anger. You’ll get angry, you’ll lose your temper, you’ll sometimes blow a stack, and sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes that’s even justified and healthy. Just don’t let it make you angry forever. Don’t let anger turn you into someone you were never intended to be. You were never intended to be someone who keeps grudges or breeds discord. You weren’t intended to be someone who is angry all the time, angry even when good things are happening in your life. Keep your anger in check and make sure you only get angry when you should.

That’s good advice because an angry man stirs up dissension and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. This is one of those common sense observations that even atheists could embrace. Think about groups you’ve joined, or teams you’ve been on, work, church, family. Have you ever known that grumpy old uncle who just couldn’t get along with anyone? Or there’s the person at work who just can’t seem to say anything good about his co-workers? I was once a hotel clerk and I used to work with a guy there who just didn’t have anything good to say about anyone else. He was nice to the customers, though he could also be curt. But if you tried talking with him behind the desk, he would complain about the rest of us, and the manager, and how he could run the place better than any of the people who actually did. I tried to befriend him and hang out together outside of work, but he was simply too negative. When I left Indiana, I lost track of him and don’t know what became of him. I sometimes wonder what good all that negativity, pessimism and anger really did for him.

My son used to have a really short fuse; I think I’ve written about this before. And I don’t mind writing about it now because he’s growing up and has learned (or is learning) how to channel that anger. He grew up with two older sisters who enjoyed picking on him, and parents who sometimes babied him too much. Something small would set him off and he would throw record tantrums, or scream, or become sullen. We used to say that he was being a little ball of hate, and it was unfortunately true. Maturing has taught him much about how to relate to others; that was inevitable. He’s also learned how to keep his temper under control, to walk away and cool down, not fighting every battle, learning to pick and choose what’s worth fighting for.

He learned that hot temper at home, mostly from me; I’ve said this before as well. His grandparents taught his parents impatience, how to yell instead of calmly confront, and how to overreact and control instead of being pro-active and not enabling. I suspect that most parents, when they’re facing the empty nest years, reflect on what they wish they had done better. Both my wife and I say that we wish we had yelled less, not been so emotional, been more faith-filled and calm. I like to think that this would have had a good effect on all three of our kids, but especially our son.

I think about this a lot these days, especially since he’s the only kid left at home. We’re blessed that his sisters live nearby and we see them quite often, but Son Terry is the only one of the chicks left in the nest. With only two years of high school left, I want to use our remaining time to mentor him, to train and teach him that he will always have a temper but that it need not temper him. He doesn’t have to let it out all the time. He can learn to channel it effectively, use it to positive effect. It can energize and focus him in righteous ways instead of exploding indiscriminate hatred. Son doesn’t need to be a man who stirs up dissension.

I don’t want him to grow up to be a hot-tempered man who commits many sins. It’s hard enough to grow up these days without taking on additional burdens. Smart aleck remarks can lead to fights; a bull-headed demeanor usually leads to nothing good. And if you store up your anger, it builds into depression and resentments that eventually burst out. If you think about it, anger really does lead to many sins, and I’m betting many of them are unintended. Ever punched a wall in anger? Or lied about something, gone off sullen and harsh? Have you ever had revenge sex, or said things that weren’t true just to hurt someone who hurt you? You know that Christ said being angry at someone or hating them is the equivalent to murder, that wishing someone was dead or hating them is the same as actually killing them. That’s a sobering thought.

I’ve done the things I described above. They totally suck. They started with at least some modicum of unresolved or unchecked anger. For too many years I carried around anger at small slights, past wrongs, or even unintended actions that happened to me. They festered as resentment, then depression, then manifestation. I don’t want my son to live like that, harboring anger whatever its source. There is a better way. It isn’t hard to learn, and it teaches you that anger never lasts but Divine love does. It has taken me a lifetime to learn this, to understand it. I want better for my son.

Last Friday, we watched the “Courageous” movie. I’d seen it before: my wife and I went to see it last fall. The theme of the movie is how to be a Godly father, that we only have so long to help teach and train our kids for a lifetime of Godly living. As a father, it’s my special privilege to get to do this with my kids, with the young men and women they bring into their lives, and some day to my grandchildren. From now on, one of the first things I hope they will remember about me is that I learned how to hold my temper, and then how to love through it. I’m hopeful they will learn to let the angers evaporate, leaving only the love to share.

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