Entries in self-control (3)
Who or what gets you angry? As you do an inventory, let me give you some of my biggest pet peeves. First, ridiculous traffic light sequences make me angry. We can put a man on the moon but we have yet to figure out how to improve and expedite traffic flow. I cannot tell you the number of times I have sat at a light waiting for the green and see no other traffic travelling on the street I have intersected with. My comment more often than not is, “This is just ridiculous!” (emphasis added J). Those lights make me so angry! Another regular frustration is the instrument that I’m using to record this blog… my computer. I love the convenience that it brings, but when it’s acting up, I don’t think that there’s anything more aggravating and time-consuming. My frequent comment here is, “Oh no, not again!” Do you feel my pain?
So, where does anger (frustration, irritability, aggravation) come from? My thought is that it does not come from the actual precipitating events, it comes from inside me. It is a response to my life and its daily activities not going according to my plan. Someone or something has interposed himself or itself in my life to take me off my plans… plans for time usage, plans for productivity, or plans for rest. But those people or events aren’t producing my anger, they are revealing it. Anger is a God-given emotion and is not inherently bad or evil. But anger is prone to go in very dysfunctional directions if we do not handle it correctly. Our anger, properly viewed, is an invitation to a more accurate self-perception and growth. Why do I get upset when my wife does that? Why am I so stressed when I’m late? Why does my lack of knowledge and ability make me so mad? The answer is not a cookie cutter one… one size does not fit all. But our regular irritations are a call to a deeper place where God can speak to us in a more profound manner. God speaks to Cain’s anger at his rejected sacrifice and says: “Why are you angry? …if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” The goal is not to stop being angry, but to be its master and not let that anger lead us into sin. So stop blaming others or events or even God for your anger, and allow Him to take you into a place where you can use that anger to lead you to greater personal insights and more healthy relationships.
I don't think that anyone can argue that it is extremely hot right now in Orlando, Florida. In my opinion, miserably hot! How to stay clear of heat exhaustion during this time is all over the news. Recently in the Orlando Sentinel I came across an article that was talking about athletes, both High School and College, going back to practice for their respective fall sports. In it they stressed the importance of water and coaches paying attention and taking the time for their players to rest in the heat. I began to think about this. It dawned on me that our “souls” are similar. They need nourishing especially when things are "hot". Whether it be a hardship in our marriage, your kids, or any other relationship, things can make us "hot", or angry. Just like a time out in practices for fall sports in order to hydrate, we need time out for our souls to hydrate.
So what is the purpose of time out for the soul? It helps us cool down. Take inventory of our emotions so that when we deal with a "hot" situation we have the composure to do it without "losing it" so to speak. The important thing to remember is that anger is usually a response to not being heard or understood. We often, mistakenly so, assume that the louder we get the more we will be heard. The opposite is actually truer. The louder we get, the less we are heard.
As we are in a time of transition with kids going back to school, our economy all over the place, and a million other things, I encourage you to take inventory of the "heat" in your soul. Take time to attend to it. It can only help you and the relationships around you.
I don’t know of anyone that actually likes conflict. I certainly know some who do better at it than others… like my wife, for instance! It’s not that she can out-argue me, it’s just that her perseverance is so much better that I eventually raise the white flag because I, in wimp-like fashion, am too tired to proceed. Doing conflict well is an art, not a science. But there are some things to keep in mind that might help you develop your ability to fight in a productive manner. Here’s the list:
- Keep your communication short… don’t lecture each other.
- Don’t use absolutes (I almost said “Never use absolutes” :)
- Concentrate on listening and not what you’re going to say next.
- Work toward a mutually agreed upon solution, not who will win and who will lose.
If you follow these simple guidelines I am convinced that you will not only see better conflict resolution, but also less volatile conflict when you have it. Last, let me remind you that just because you don’t have a lot of conflict doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Conflict communicated is better than ill-feelings stuffed inside. So when you fight, fight fair!