I was venting to my husband this morning about a situation that was so upsetting to me. As my momma used to say, “It aggravated the stew out of me.” I could see so clearly what needed to be done and could not for the life of me understand why that was so hard for others to see?! I couldn’t understand why someone would keep making the same decisions that kept them in the same situation? It was like a vicious cycle that everyone around them could see, but to which they were blinded. And, it seemed there was no way to tell them, their heart and mind were not in a place to hear it.
Let me interrupt myself to tell you, that it takes one to know one. What I mean is I have been in vicious cycles of destructive behavior myself and that is why I can look and see when someone is living in a way that will bring them no joy. It’s easy to find fault in another. But, honestly, I am not looking for fault; I would love to see deliverance for this situation. I don’t want to be that person; you know the one whom you can never please. Nothing is ever good enough. But, I also don’t want to be the one who is never willing to recognize unhealthy behavior for what it really is either, a cry for help.
Finding balance is so important.
So, I was talking to the Lord about this. How do I balance when I recognize bad behavior, acknowledge it and pray about it without becoming judgmental and self-righteousness? When is it okay to be angry at someone’s repeated bad behavior or at my own bad behavior and when have I crossed the line into needing to mind my own business and self-condemnation? Or is anger okay at all ever? I mean, is their life any of my concern? And why am I being so hard them and myself?
As you can see my mind was spinning with questions.
Well, the day passed me by and my anger subsided. Life has a way of keeping you so busy that you don’t have time to “stew” for long. It hadn’t totally left my mind, but it wasn’t on my mind either, if you know what I mean. I went to work, visited my daughter in Mobile and felt very fulfilled by the time I arrived home later that evening.
Then my husband checked the mail.
You know I used to love the mail, but these days it doesn’t bring a lot of good news. It’s either bills, junk mail or a letter telling you bad news. In this case it was bad news. Well, that just set me off again. I was mad at a person, upset with a situation and downright sick of feeling angry.
And I was feeling sick of myself too.
My mom used to tell me when I would vent to her that so often it wasn’t the big crises in life that drove us crazy, we could handle a tough spot for a time with help and strength from the Lord. But, it was all the little things that could send one over the edge. She would reference a Bible verse about the “little foxes” and I would shake my head and agree, having no idea what scripture she was talking about. But, it always seemed to fit the situation. Well, today I decided to look up the verse.
Song of Solomon 2:15
“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”
I think my mom might’ve been brilliant.
Isn’t that the truth? There are seasons of my life, like right now, that it seems like one little thing after another happens. None of them are really a big deal in and of themselves, but after being accosted with enough frustrations, it all begins to feel big. And then the “letter” comes in the mail and suddenly we just can’t take another “little fox.” Not one more small frustration.
Explosion; well, that’s how it works for me.
Then I rant and vent and basically jeopardize my salvation in an effort to release the anger that has built up within me. Then I have guilt for my outburst and wonder when in the world I will handle my emotions better? It reminds me of Paul when he says in Romans that he does what he hates.
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
The longer I live on this planet, the more I understand what he is saying here. And I feel better after I read it because Paul was pretty much a super Christian and he still struggled with doing the right thing. Which is exactly what I was alluding to earlier, what is the right thing? I know having a temper tantrum is not okay, but is it okay to feel anger, and not the righteous kind? I am hardly the person to be answering this question, but it has been surfacing in my mind and heart a lot lately as I encounter one thing after another, I need to find some peace with what I am feeling.
I decided to look up some verses on anger, mostly to ease my conscience and make me feel justified in my behavior. When will I learn that it never goes that way for me? I did learn some things and I’m going to share with you some of what I discovered. Beware; there could be a guilty conscience on the horizon for you if you are anything like me…
We’ll start with Ephesians 4:26-31
“’In your anger do not sin’”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
I am not sure how that made you feel, but I feel that I need to confess, and maybe wash my mouth out with soap. Looking for something a little brighter, I pressed on.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
This one seems a little more manageable. Be quick to listen, I can definitely do that, slow to speak might take some work but I think with some practice I could handle it. Feeling a little more encouraged, I read some more.
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
Well, this verse suddenly made me think of every single time I whined to my husband and said “I just need to vent.” I can tell you from experience that it does not bring “calm in the end” to allow your mouth to run with no restraint. It will most likely ignite the situation even more. Kind of like the time my darling husband put too much lighter fluid on the charcoal when we were going to cook on the grill. He lit the charcoal and walked in the house to prepare the meat thinking the coals would burn down to just the right temperature for slow cooking tender meat. But, when he went back outside to check the flame, it was roaring so high that it had melted and warped the carport ceiling directly above it.
Adding a little too much made what was supposed to be a gentle burn into a flame worthy of the respect of any decent fire fighter.
The right amount of the lighter fluid would’ve brought about the desired result and in the end, tasty hamburgers. But, too much made us lose our appetite and say prayers of thanks that the house did not burn down. To me, that’s what this verse is saying, allowing full vent to my rage is like adding too much lighter fluid, just don’t do it.
You’ll get burnt, or you’ll burn somebody.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
So, this is the one that really hit home with me. After reading it, I began to really check my motives. So many times I am angry because I did not get my way or because someone did not do what I think they should’ve. I try to convince myself that my motives are good, but, honestly most of the time my anger comes from a place of thinking I know what is best. I can try to mask it, but in my most vulnerable moments I know that I’m being selfish or maybe a know it all.
That is a painful discovery and confession.
So, after reading all of these verses (and many more) I am convinced that is okay to be angry, but it is how I handle my anger that makes all the difference. My “venting” may just be nothing more than fuel to the flame; it may not be helping like I try to convince myself it is. If I really take all of the advice listed in these few verses, I will be a lot less likely to give myself a “pass” in my stewing. It’s a tricky subject and I don’t pretend to offer well-meaning advice on how to handle it, but I do offer you the Word in hopes that it will help. I know it has helped me.
Balance is what I was seeking in all of this. Trying to figure out what the Bible says about my frustrations and how to handle them. I think I have my answer; it is in a verse that I’m going to keep very close to my heart for a while as I work through all of these little issues.
I don’t want to be angry all the time and Lord knows life’s frustrations aren’t going to just vanish.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
I think I’m going to go looking for a little fox trap. I’ve had about enough of all of their annoying behavior. (And maybe a bar of soap, too.)