By Jeremy Stalnecker
I am prone to anger. I certainly don’t like to admit that, but it is true and apparent to those who know me well. I would like to say that this began after my time in Iraq, but anger is something that I have struggled with since I was young. In some ways my time in Iraq made me feel justified in my outbursts of anger, but that time did not cause it. I am often proud and do not like not being in control and when all else fails I tend to get angry in an attempt to take back what I believe is rightfully mine-respect, authority, control-whatever it is that I feel like I’ve lost I will angrily restore. Thankfully I continue to grow in this area, but I will probably struggle here for the rest of my life. One thing that I have learned as I’ve worked to overcome these “out of control” moments is this:
I can choose to get angry or choose to grow, but I cannot do both.
When I choose to get angry, and lets be honest, it is a choice, I have given up the ability to learn and grow. I can’t learn the lessons that frustrating and difficult situations can teach if I’m focused on simply getting my way. I damage relationships, isolate myself from those who care for me and, perhaps most importantly, poison my soul. The more I allow anger to control how I respond to the people and situations around me, the more I lose the ability to respond with the care, empathy and encouragement that I am called to offer. Scripture tells me to speak edifying words intended to build others up but I lose a more of my ability to do so every time I respond first in anger. Eventually, if not dealt with, the poison of anger will completely take over and I will be of no value to anyone.
And then, as if this isn’t hard enough, we live in a culture that applauds anger! The angrier, more cutting and sarcastic you can be the louder the applause. It seems that we have lost the ability to even attempt to encourage others because we are too busy figuring out how we will get in on the anger. We find a target and, from the deep well of a poisoned soul, dump as much indignation as we possibly can. And if we can be funny while doing it, we get extra points! Just as I have used my time in Iraq as cover for my lack of control, we are able to use the brokenness of our culture as the reason for our bad behavior. Truthfully though, we are just proud and need to be in control and really like the attention that our “righteous anger” brings.
Our culture applauds our anger while we slowly kill ourselves for their praise.
Some will say, “There are things that should make us angry”, and to that I would say, “of course”. There are some things that should make us angry. And someday I will write about them. Those few things are not what I struggle with. What I struggle with is the overwhelming need to constantly get my way. Anger poisons us because it takes our eyes off of others and off of our relationship with God and filters everything through the question: “How does this effect me?”
Choose to grow instead of responding in anger and you will begin the process of healing from the poison of a life and spirit out of control. Ignore the praise of a culture that applauds hate and instead choose to be a builder and a life giver. Refuse to allow anger to continue poisoning your soul.
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