By Kay W. Camenisch
Recently, Laura, a 13-year-old friend, sobbed as she sought counsel on how to get along with her father. “He yells at me so much,” she said, “I don’t even listen. Normally I don’t like for people to get mad at me, but he doesn’t bother me any more. I just ignore him.”
She tried to brush off her father’s rage, but Laura was in tears. She was wounded from the things he had said, and aching because she had no hope for peace. In their latest encounter, she tried to be respectful, accept responsibility, and remain calm, but it seemed her efforts were futile.
Parents are often frustrated because their children don’t follow directions. Anger grows out of frustration and the effort to force compliance. However, Laura paid less attention to her father because of his anger. Instead of helping, anger hinders.
God tells us in James 1:20,
“The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (NASB).
In the moment, it seems a raised voice helps achieve desired results. It might bring compliance, but with each outburst of temper, respect and the desire to please are damaged and diminished. Even though anger seems to accomplish conformity, it undermines other desired results. With our children, it destroys initiative, attentiveness to detail, and joy in serving. In short, anger interferes with long-term goals.
Anger also destroys relationships. “He says he loves me,” Laura said, “but I don’t know. He doesn’t act like it.” The hopelessness in her voice emphasized her doubts concerning her father’s for love her.
Laura’s father is generally calm, kind, and loving but in the moment all Laura remembered was his recent rage. She was right about one thing. Screaming, yelling, and blaming don‘t exhibit God’s love. Whether to our children, spouses, extended family, or co-workers, anger—explosive or sullen—does not exhibit love. Anger tears down the relationships we work to build—especially if we habitually resort to anger.
How To Overcome Anger
What can we do to overcome anger? One thing I’ve found that works is love, God’s love. My husband, Robert, conquered volatile anger through love. For me, for almost a year, God used a framed cross-stitch on my bedroom wall to confront me. When I’d get angry, the Lord would draw my attention to the words,
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
I was confronted by it every time my love failed. When tension developed between Robert and me, those words were usually enough to remind me of my own shortcoming—particularly the phrases “bears all things” and “endures all things.” Then I’d remember other qualities from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, such as,
“Love is patient, love is kind, . . . it does not seek its own, is not provoked, and does not take into account a wrong suffered.”
When looking at these verses, I feel I’m a noisy gong.
Seeing my short-coming was not enough. I discovered that my efforts to remain patient and kind, not taking into account a wrong suffered are inadequate. Self-centeredness undermines me. When I try in my own strength, I fail. However, I kept meditating on the meaning of God’s love, sought God’s forgiveness, and asked Him to build those qualities in me.
I found hope. God’s love never fails, and He will love through me! When I’m weak, the Lord's strength is made known. All I have to do is give up and let Him change my heart. As I have kept going back to Scripture, repenting for my sin, and asking God to make me patient, kind, long suffering, and such, He is changing me. I’m angry less, and those qualities are becoming more natural. I don’t have to work so hard at it.
1 Corinthians 13 ends with,
“But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13b).
Laura’s faith is shaken and her hope is crushed. Her father’s probably is too, because he blew it again.
However, love—the self-sacrificing love of 1 Corinthian 13—can conquer the anger, restore faith and hope, and heal their relationship. I know. It’s happened in my life.
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Kay W. Camenisch has written a Bible study, Uprooting Anger: Destroying the Monster Within, to help believers overcome the bondage of anger (www.uprootinganger.com). She has been published in The Upper Room and The Lookout. Contemporary Drama has published one of her plays, and she is a regular contributor to a newspaper column. Kay is also a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother. She has worked closely in ministry with her husband, including in local churches, as missionaries in Brazil, working with a church school, training young adults to mentor troubled youth, and establishing and directing a ranch for troubled young men. Visit Kay's website
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