Anger is Easy, But It Makes a Hard Heart

Anger is easy. So easy. Shouting, pouting, stomping, it’s amazing how little effort those things actually take. I remember when I was a child, people would invariably say, “It takes more muscles to pout than it does to smile.” Well, nevertheless, I’m pretty sure most of us haven’t shied away from flexing those suckers.

Anger is easy.

In my house anger ebbs and flows. We have quite a few different personalities trying to co-exist with one another. That’s a challenge! I’m hoping that as we grow it’ll become less of an issue; but since my husband and I both brought anger from our childhoods, we are still dealing with it some. Some of that our children have learned from us, and some they have come up with out of their very own sinful nature.

Because anger is so easy.

But it makes your heart so hard.

There is so much to say about anger, more than I have space for in a simple blog post. However, I will just talk about it as it relates to some major disruptions in my family.

God has quite a bit to say about anger:

Proverbs 14:29—Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

Psalm 37:8-9—8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath, do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Matthew 5:22—But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Ephesians 4:26-27—26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

Ephesians 4:31—Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

James 1:19-20—19 My dear brothers and sisters take note of this; Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Proverbs 29:11—Fools give full vent to their rage but the wise bring calm in the end.

Proverbs 19:11—A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Ecclesiastes 7:9—Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Proverbs 15:1—A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:9—A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

Clearly, God has explained, expounded and elucidated the dangers of anger (folly, conflict, evil, etc), and how we can avoid anger (use wisdom, patience, and gentle words). The Bible specifically tells us that our human anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.

So why do we turn so quickly to anger? Especially with those we hold most dear? For me it becomes a habit.

It starts simple. Maybe I feel justified because I’ve been “provoked”.

For example, my 7-year-old and his fixation on some toy bird at Wal-Mart. He feels he MUST have this bird. Never mind that our attic and basement are full of toys that no one plays with, that we are waiting to have the time (and the secrecy) to donate. (Hell hath no fury like a child that catches you donating toys they didn’t even remember they had.)

Never mind that. He needs this bird. He is even willing to spend his own money on it. Also never mind that this money was a gift and not earned and that he does not yet understand the value of a dollar.

After about 10 minutes of discussion, his dad and I decide that he needs to earn the money at minimum wage and if he still wants the bird after working hard for it, he can purchase it.

“Okay,” he whines. “Can you just give me the money now and I’ll work for it later?”

“Um, no.”

Melt. Down. More whining, arguing etc. The whole situation frustrates me. More toys? Behaving ungratefully? Whining? Yuck to all of it.

So, I just grumble a little. No harm in that right? It’s mostly inside my own mind. No one else can hear it. I feel like it’s not hurting anyone and it’s “making me feel better”, and it’s so easy.

Next I might just start responding to what I perceive as “provocation” with a look. A mean one, but it’s just a look, right?

And then, maybe a sassy tone to my words. Mostly it’s just a little funny, right? I’m being sassy, a little sarcastic, isn’t it funny?

For example, a few weeks ago, I moved the peanut butter to a new place in our cabinets. The old place didn’t make sense, and added time to lunch prep. Not a big deal unless you are home with your little army pretty close to 365 days of the year for lunch. Which I am.

Also not a big deal unless you feed them a lot of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Which I do. (If you feel like judging me here, just email me some lunch suggestions instead, okay? Okay.)

So, the new peanut butter location is convenient. Or it would be if my husband would put the peanut butter there more than one time out of ten. Irritating.

So I say, “I know it’s really difficult, but do you think you can try to remember where the peanut butter goes?”

If you read that in a kind voice, go back and read it in a voice that says, “I’m trying to be funny but really I’m treating you like you’re stupid.” There you go.

But then I start being rude. I respond the first time, every time with impatience, mean looks and harsh, rude words. Even if I’m not being “provoked”. Even if I’m just annoyed, or inconvenienced, or tired. Or hungry. Or bored. I can come up with a million reasons why it’s okay to act like that.

Suddenly I am unpleasant, unkind, ugly and unfriendly almost all the time. That easy anger? It made my heart hard. My poor family.

It’s no fun for them, but it also has a domino effect. Before I know it, not only am I behaving like this, but so is the rest of the family. Yikes!

So, what do I need? What do my kids need?

  1. We need to repent. God’s mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) If we turn from our tempers and anger and attitudes and repent, God forgives us every time. Can I get an Amen?
  2. We need to ask for human forgiveness. It’s wonderful to be forgiven by our Savior. But asking for human forgiveness is important too. It is indicative of our repentance. It isn’t a guarantee of forgiveness, however. Humans struggle a little with this, you might have noticed. Not being forgiven hurts, but it is no excuse to go on sinning.
  3. We need to focus on the next moment. The next impatience, the next annoyance, the next inconvenience, the next insult, etc. Not all of them that we will face for the rest of our lives. Just the very next one. Breathe. Smile. Forgive. Be Kind. As an acronym, that sucks. BSFB. Bbbsssfffbbb. Say it aloud with me. 😉 But seriously. Breathing, deep breaths, long pauses, they refocus our mind and give us a moment to think before we respond. All good things. Smiling! It’s difficult to be mean when you are smiling. A real smile. Fake ones don’t count. I dare you to try to be mean or stay angry with a real smile on your face. Forgive the slight, the insult, the annoyance, the irritation, the inconvenience. Realize it isn’t all about you, they probably didn’t mean to be insulting and if they did it doesn’t have to hurt your feelings. You have a choice whether or not to be offended! (Guess where I learned that? That’s right, my Other Momma.) Be kind. This is obvious. But going out of your way to be kind, even if you have to force it (force, not fake, there is a difference I think), will go a long way in changing your heart, your attitude and your actions.
  4. We need to keep trying! Don’t give up. If you lose it once, you don’t have to do it for the rest of the day. Refer back to #1 and BSFB and keep trying.

Since the Bible deals with anger again and again we know God does not want us walking around growling, grunting and snarling like a bunch of animals. But sometimes it is difficult to break the habit. A hard heart is a miserable thing to have! This is something that I seem to struggle with in cycles, so I am thankful that God is as patient as He is merciful!

How do you deal with anger challenges in your home?

**Some other time I’ll write about anger in more depth. It’s been a pretty big deal in my life, to be honest; because much of the time, at least for me, anger is just masking another, more vulnerable emotion.**

What do you think?