He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
Colossians 3: 8
I admire my daughter-in-law Stephanie. Regardless of what her children are doing, she addresses them calmly and peacefully. Stephanie is not easily provoked and I never hear irritation in her voice. My own voice can quickly take on an agitated tone and I strive to consistently respond more like her.
How easy it is to become irritated with family members and allow harsh words to spill out of one’s mouth!
A father may be ever so patient with co workers yet quickly resort to yelling at his own kids when they inconvenience him. A mother may be full of joy in the midst of her friends, yet easily irritated and angry when her kids do not comply. A 14 year old girl may have no patience with her younger siblings, yet pour on the charm for classmates at school.
At home, it’s easy to take our guard down and let our real selves loose! It’s in the blow up moments that I’ve longed for a “start over” button. Yet when it comes to taking back words (and actions), there is no such thing as a “do over.” The words we speak, both the kind and the harsh ones, go on to have a life of their own, often remembered and even rehearsed over and over in the minds of the recipients.
Henry Drummond, a renowned 19th century Scottish evangelist, described “easily provoked” powerfully in his booklet The Greatest Thing in the Word:
“We are inclined to look upon bad temper as a very harmless weakness. We speak of it as a mere infirmity of nature, a family failing, a matter of temperament, not a thing to take into very serious account in estimating a man’s character. ……the peculiarity of ill temper is that it is the vice of the virtuous. It is often the one blot on an otherwise noble character. You know men who are all but perfect, and would who would be entirely perfect, but for an easily ruffled, quick-tempered, or ‘touchy’ disposition. ….the truth is, there are two great classes of sins – sins of the body and sins of the disposition…..NO form of vice, not worldliness, not greed of gold, not drunkenness itself, does more to un-christianize society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up communities, for destroying the most sacred relationships, for devastating homes, for withering up men and women, for taking the bloom of childhood, in short, for sheer gratuitous misery-producing power this influence stands alone.”
So how does a parent change an angry temperament?
It comes down to the gospel message. We must first comprehend that God freely adopts us and loves us, even in our angry condition and then HE transforms us into loving mothers and fathers. No amount of will power and self effort is enough to change an angry disposition. We can put a lid on it and try to stamp it out but we remain in our human condition until we allow God’s love to transform us from the inside out.
A loving heart does not anger. An angry heart does not love.
Parents tend to get angry when their children do not comply. Yet, it’s important to note that children of angry parents tend to be less complaint. (Research in When Anger Hurts Your Children) Compliance certainly is a worthy goal but if the primary message that kids hear on a daily basis is about being good so that they won’t disappoint, then the gospel likely needs to do its transforming work in the parents as well .
In short, kids need to see the gospel lived out at home.
When we as parents fall into the arms of our loving, grace-giving Father, our hearts will become loving and our kids will hear in our words- and see in our lives – the renewing message of the gospel. Then they will be irresistibly drawn as well to the only one who can redeem us and change us – Jesus Christ our Lord!