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Here’s my question for the day:

Think about the last time you were angry with your child. Were you in a hurry? Were you angry at that child because he or she wasn’t working on your schedule?

It’s too common: I have something I want to get done and I have a time frame in mind and the kids aren’t falling into it. This goes back to to the point of the last post, because it probably means I’m expecting too much of my children because I’ve scheduled too much in. Which is my fault.

A dad who is often in a rush with his children is a dad who will have difficulty showing grace and mercy in his Fathering.

Next: Peeling out.

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

One more time, you can file this one under you-might-not-find-this-in-the-Bible

From my Hypothesis (1) explained in my last post.

Dads, if
(1) you are angry with your child in a certain situation, it means
(2) you think your child is partially responsible for the situation, and,
(3) there is a part of your brain that fears or suspects that you were partially responsible for the situation, so
(4) you’re afraid you did something sinful or unwise to cause this situation.

But what are you afraid your sinful or foolish action was? D&A1

Hypothesis (2) – you were afraid of one of two things:

1. You were afraid that in this situation you were expecting too much from your child, or
2. You were afraid that some time before this situation you have expected too little from your child.

Does that seem reasonable? Possible?

So – right now in this situation where you are angry– which was it?

And whichever it is – what are you going to change to prevent your anger in the future?

Next: A common situation that ignites a dads anger.

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

Introducing the Anger Grid!

Warning: The following is my personal opinion, and I think you would be hard pressed to find it in the Bible. So accept these thoughts accordingly.

It is my theory that most of the time (for most reasonable people), if a person is experiencing anger about a certain problem, it’s because they suspect (or fear) the problem is at least partially their own fault. If something negative happens to a person and that person is fairly confident that it’s not a result of something foolish or sinful they did, then they may experience sadness, or want some kind of justice, but they don’t experience anger.

So here’s a grid that I whipped up using my extensive computer graphics ability.

Fault and Emotions

Is the grid clear enough?

The key to the grid is, we only get angry if we detect both ourselves and another party is responsible. If we think it’s only our fault, then we just experience shame. But if we have another person we can blame, that’s when we get angry. And this means that anger is a sign we are latching on to our hope that another person is to blame. If the other person hadn’t done it, then the bad thing wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t have had to feel bad about this. Do your best to scrutinize and be suspicious of this way of thinking.

Here’s the application: The next time you’re angry – check to see if you feel some culpability for the problem. And if there is – deal with your own sin or lack of wisdom before you deal with others. And this is especially true if the “others” are your kids.

Does that make sense? Does it fit your reality? As you look back at the last time you were angry, does it seem likely that you were fearing that the problem was at least partially your fault?

Next: What I think dads are fearing about themselves when they are angry.

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

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I said in the last post that in the judgment, no one will be told by God “You weren’t angry enough.” I mentioned this to my wife and she commented that there is such a thing as righteous anger. Agreed.

How’s this for a definition? Righteous Anger: Anger that is permissible, correct, non-sinful, right.

I agree that this exists. It can at times be useful. It can at times drive you to good action. Still, I don’t feel that a lack of this will be called out in the Day of Judgment. Rather, I think what God will call sin is the lack of action.

“You saw injustice and did not act against it”
“You knew that innocents were being harmed and did not speak up”

God will do this. This is what we should fear. But a man who sees harmful things happening, and works to stop them, and never gets angry in the process – he doesn’t need to fear God’s judgment (about that one issue.)

So once again, it’s not the instinctive emotion; it’s the response, it’s what you do, it’s how you take action that is the important thing.

And once again, in any case, I think it most likely that your anger against your two year old (or seven year old, or twelve year old) is best described as “Not Righteous”.

Question: Do you agree or disagree?

Next: The real reason you are angry.

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

Here are the verses in question:

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. – Psalm 4:4

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. – Ephesians 4:26,27

In many situations, Biblically speaking, sin is what we do after the initial impulse.

So lust is not the initial awareness that a woman is pretty, it’s the second or third or lingering glance.

Coveting is not the thought, “That would be nice to have”, but the dwelling on your lack of it.

And sinful anger is not the first frustration, or the first heating up in your mind as you are bothered by something; the sin is the staying there and the doing.

So a person can be angry and not sin. We know this – from the above verses and personal experience. You know you can feel anger and choose to show grace, or mercy, or patience. Or you can step away from the situation.

Dads, please note that in my main statementD&A1 I didn’t say, “Never be angry at your children”. Rather, I’ve said, “Never act in anger against your children”.

And how should we do this? Let’s look at the verses.

“Ponder in your hearts on your bed and be silent” – Don’t jump to act on your anger. Look before you leap. Consider how you might have been responsible for this situation that is frustrating you. Give yourself some time to cool off.

“Do not let the sun go down on your anger” – Resolve it. There is a good chance your children need correction if they are making you angry. There’s also a good chance that you have misjudged them. After thinking about this, talk to them. Learn about their motivations. If discipline is the just response, then do it.

But not in anger. Not yelling. Calmly.

And let me tell you what I think these verses are not saying: They are not commandments to be angry. In heaven when we are being judged, no one will be told, “You weren’t angry enough”.

Next: What about Righteous Anger?

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

In my last post I suggested that it is possible and even likely that Jesus was not acting in anger when he cleared the temple. But I do not suggest that Jesus was never angry. He was, at least once. And what did Jesus’ anger look like?

I did a search of the ESV Bible and even though the Gospels are replete with passages where people mistreated and sinned against Jesus, I can see only one passage that describes him as angry:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:1-6, ESV)

Yes, Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, Savior, King of Kings was at least once angry at a group of humans. And what did he do with that anger? He healed someone.

He was not destructive, he was compassionate. That’s how he acted out his anger. And how ironic that the Pharisees’ response was to plan his destruction.

Jesus was angry. He did not act in anger. Even though there were those to whom it was due. Dads, go therefore and do likewise to your children and your wife.

Don’t be like the Pharisees, be like Jesus.

Next, the “Be Angry” passages.

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

I thought I’d mention that all of the artwork in this series has been created by my eleven year old daughter Adelyn. She is a drawer.

She draws scenes all the times and I find them to be delightful and expressive – I understand what she’s trying to communicate with them.

D&A4So I commissioned her to draw some pictures of a Dad being angry at his children. She has, so far, drawn four.

Her pictures are universally cheerful and uplifting, so this project gave her a different kind of challenge. I think she did well.

My daughter doesn’t normally spend lots of time drawing pictures of angry dad, is what I’m saying.

 

 

I wanted to clarify some of the thoughts in the last post – ideas that might not have been completely clear because of the levity in it.

1. The Cleansing of the Temple.

There is a law written somewhere that you can’t discuss the topic of anger in Christian circles without bringing up what Jesus did at the Temple. I find this a little odd, because it never says that Jesus was angry. We just assume he was because of his violence. But not all choices for physical destruction are a result of anger.

To illustrate – I’ll use the example in the last post with more detail.

Imagine this setting – a person in the care of an infant walks into the nursery to find a large dangerous snake about to attack the baby. And further imagine there is a machete in the room. I do not hold high odds on the snake coming out well in that confrontation, even if the person is a non-strong, usually timid fourteen-year-old girl. Now when you picture the caretaker inflicting violence on the snake, do you picture her as acting in anger? No, she is acting with the motivations of protection and justice. I call this wrath, not anger.

And I see these kinds of motivations behind Jesus’ actions in the temple. He wasn’t (to employ the stated definition) acting out of “a feeling of belligerence or displeasure, accompanied by an impulse to retaliate”

I’ll admit that Jesus might have been angry in this situation. Will you admit that it’s possible that he might not have been? And if there is a reasonable chance that he wasn’t angry in this situation, should you use it as a defense for your own anger?

And whatever you were last angry with your kids about – it wasn’t as bad as what the sellers were doing at the temple.

Next post – the time that Jesus did get angry.

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

(And by the way, perhaps I should have titled this blog series: “Christian Dads and Anger”, or “Bible Believing Dads and Anger”, because most of my reason for believing what I’m writing is based on scripture. If you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, then there will be little reason for you to believe what I’m saying.)

… as an excuse for your outburst.

From a series of posts on the topic of how dads should deal with anger.

=========

Oh, hi, Honey.

What’s that? You’re gently but assertively suggesting that I was too angry with the kids just now as they interrupted my reading time? You think I should have been more patient? And maybe even answered their question or gone with them to see what they wanted to show me?

It sounds to me like you’re suggesting that dads don’t have the right to be angry at their kids.

Well, let me remind you of the biblical story from the Gospels during the first part of Holy Week when Jesus got angry with the Pharisees and totally took down their operation in the temple. And did I mention that it was during Holy Week?

He even knocked down tables, and I, well, I might have ranted and yelled for five minutes, but I didn’t disturb any furniture whatsoever. Actually, I think it was less than five minutes.

Yes? You say that this situation is a little different from Jesus’? Well, let’s break that down*. Jesus got angry with the Pharisees for turning the temple into a den of scorpions. Well, I’ll just point out that what the kids interrupted me from what was a quiet reading of this new Steven King book, which I’m told has spiritually thematic elements, and it was, as I say, quiet in here until they came bursting in with their news about The Frog! The Frog!  So you could say that this was . . . in a manner of speaking, a very temple-like room.

And their certainty and aggression regarding the Backyard Frog’s interestingness was, you have to admit, very pharisaical (Hey, I spelled that correctly on the first try!). And me spending time alone to collect my thoughts by reading was, if not Christ-like, then a little Jesus-ish, so my situation was pretty much exactly like the Jesus-In-The-Temple-Scenario. You remember that story, don’t you?

Hmm? What? Oh, Ha ha, yes, of course I remember that you went to seminary. It’s so funny that you think I don’t remember my own wife’s educational history. Yes, of course you remember that story. I was just asking the question rhetorically.

What? You say that the Bible doesn’t actually say that Jesus was angry in this scene, and that you once heard a sermon** that suggested that his action of taking down the tables at the temple was no more an act of anger than that of a normal sword-carrying person’s response to a venomous snake found in a nursery with babies in it?  Passion, quick action and destructive decisiveness, but not anger. Is that what you’re saying?

So, in short . . . you still maintain that I overreacted and shouldn’t have yelled at the kids.

I guess I can only respond with: You’re right, honey, and this is just another example of how a chord of three strands can help the other up when he has fallen down, symbolically speaking.

But I’ll only admit that if you’ll agree to admit that the Bible says it’s not always bad to be angry – you know, with the “Be angry but do not sin” verse. Which one? You mean there’s more than one? Oh, Ephesians 4:26 and Psalm 4:4. Sure. Well, see now, there are two verses that underscore my point! So you’ll agree that sometimes it’s okay to be angry? Great. So we’ve both learned something!

Yes? One more thing? Oh, yes, ‘Den of Thieves’ not ‘Den of Scorpions’. Yes. I knew that.

The scorpion is what a good dad doesn’t give to his children.

* Why, yes, Honey, that is a very vague reference to a Will Smith movie. I’m impressed you caught that.

** Hmmm? It wasn’t actually a real sermon that you heard, but you think it should be? Fair enough.

=====

To be clear, this is a fictional scene. For one thing, I’ve never actually read a Steven King book.

In my next post I’ll discuss the Bible passages mentioned here a little more explicitly.

Click here to see the list of posts in this series.

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