Archive for category Training/ Teaching Children

Anger breaks things

Sometime shortly after the time of Solomon (900-800BC), a story was written by the Babylonians called The Wrath of Erra. The story is about one of their pagan deities who is called Erra, the god of war and devastation. The story opens with Erra in a depressive state of lethargy. His weapons, gathering dust in storage, complain and rebuke him, which invokes him to take action.

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Set against the counsel of his faithful vizier, Ishum, the god of fire, he wages war against Babylon. In order to distract the god of Babylon, Marduk, Erra accuses Marduk of dressing shabbily. Humiliated, Marduk takes steps by going to his tailor, while Erra offers to watch Babylon in his absence. Taking this opportunity, Erra attacks Babylon and rains down total destruction. Again, Ishum counsels prudence, but to no avail. Young and old are put to death, fathers bury their sons, and the righteous perish together with the wicked. Filled with bloodshed, Erra finally stops his rage. The other gods now take counsel on Erra, and in their company he justifies his actions with an expression of the kind of god he is (“When I get angry, I break things!”).

When you get angry, do you break things? Unchecked anger is perhaps the worst of emotions. It is the most insidious and destructive of traits that mankind possesses. The most frightening aspect is how explosively flammable it is within nanoseconds of the initial spark. Alexian Lien was beaten to death (in front of his wife and child), by motorcyclists in New York, when their anger turned into uncontrollable rage.  A woman kills her fellow Alabama fan and friend, when she is not equally angered over the loss to Auburn. Really?!

All of us, of course, are susceptible to  fits of rage. Shamefully, I’ve given in to anger a time or two. I can’t think of a single time in my outburst of anger, where I or others benefited in anyway.  To the contrary, things are broken.

Our Father in Heaven, however, made us in His image and part of His image is a righteous indignation against evil. He of course is holy and just. His  wrath or anger is justified in changing the hearts of evil people to live righteously or in visiting judgment on those who refuse. Since we are made in His image, anger is a part of our makeup. It can and must be governed by our desire to be as He is and accept Christ to reign in our hearts and our temples. (Rom.5:17-21; Gen.4:7) Without the love of Christ in our hearts, anger becomes a dangerous hand grenade, bringing destruction on ourselves and those nearby. Eph 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,   and give no opportunity to the devil.

Controlling anger is paramount! Learning to redirect and channel the anger into something constructive is taught by our Savior.  In Mark the 3rd chapter we find Jesus in a synagogue teaching on the Sabbath. A man in the audience with a withered hand is called up by Jesus. The Pharisees watch, waiting to accuse Jesus of healing on the Sabbath. Their hearts and attitudes anger Him! Mar 3:5  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. Notice that God on earth turned his fierce anger away from the lawyers and restored the lame.  Obviously, we cannot heal the sick, but we can learn to refocus the energy expelled on anger and redistribute it towards goodness and mercy towards those who need it.

Association with those of rage is sternly warned against.  Pro 22:24-25 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,   lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.  When I was a young man, I knew of two guys (who were good guys, well-liked, made good grades, church-goers), and they both decided to hang out with a reckless misfit, who constantly stayed in trouble at school and with the law. On this particular occasion they all went to a bar in Tampa, a brawl with others ensued, a gun was used, a man was killed and one of the good guys went to jail with the bad. He made friendship with rage, and rage engulfed him. Angry people are not angry all the time, but when they lose control, Lord forbid that you are in their company.  It is wise to take note of such angry people and avoid them. Pro 29:22  A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.

The emotion of anger always produces something. The righteousness of God is not one of them. (Jam. 1:20) Anger has a tenacious way of leading to heinous and often criminal acts. Wars, murder, adultery, theft, debauchery, lust, rape just to name a few are all directly the result of either hidden or openly expressed anger. Jas 4:1  What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this,  that your passions are at war within you? And further in Jas 4:4  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  People who are angry and express this anger in violent ways are often angry at God. They are at war with God! Woe to those who would associate with those at war with God.  (Job 36:13)

Dealing with anger in a reasonable and prudent way is of course instilled at an early age. First and foremost, we are taught by God not to provoke our children to anger. (Eph.6:4) .  I had a cat once, and when it was a kitten, I provoked it to play rough.  I would use my hand to taunt and tease it, letting it grab,  bite, and claw. When it was a kitten, it was cute and fun to watch the cat get angry and pin its ears back, twitch its tail, growl under its breath and then spring into action by pouncing on my hand. As the cat grew, this cuteness turned into meanness, and eventually became dangerous.  I had provoked the cat into its predatory nature. Children are not cats mind you but they learn the same, through play and imitation. They are watching us to see how we do things and are quick to pick up on all our traits, good and bad. If they witness us in anger constantly, we are in essence provoking them to be angry, a lot. If they see us throw fits of rage at other drivers, we are provoking them to be road ragers. More importantly, if we direct that anger or rage at them, we are assuredly provoking them to do the same to others. Thus, it falls on us to teach them proper anger, anger against rebellion and disobedience. They are smart enough to know when mom or dad are angry at them for misbehaving or least they should. Children must learn that the result of disobedience will produce wrath. They must also learn that any anger other than anger over sin and wrongdoing is to be avoided. These are not contradictions mind you, In the same way I’m not supposed to worry about dying, but I still take precautions to buckle my seatbelt and drive on the right side of the road.  Teaching our children the differences about righteous and unrighteous anger is healthy and wise.

 

The best way to deal with anger is to extinguish it from our nature altogether. Eph 4:31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. For most of us, this is difficult, however, God provides a wonderful formula for rage control; wisdom. Pro 19:11  Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.  Now, the only way to have good sense is to feed on the book of good sense; the Bible. God’s book of wisdom shows that those who were slow to anger like Abigail, reaped great and wonderful things.

Lastly, if we are busy doing God’s business, praying, encouraging and teaching others, then we are filled with his divine nature and anger is left to gather dust in the closet, where it can’t get out and break things. 1Ti 2:8  I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling

 Darryl Fuller

 

Two Paths to Choose

Occasionally I am afforded the opportunity to go and proclaim good tidings to those who have been incarcerated.  Today was one of those visits. Although the Shelby County Correctional Facility is a new and modern building, one step inside and you are well aware of the institutional feel; this is JAIL! two-roads The only thing that separates me from murderers, rapists, thieves, drug dealers and addicts is a few steel doors. I do not feel threatened in any way; after all there are plenty of armed officers, a well secured system to keep the prisoners on one side and visitors safe on the other. However, one cannot quite squelch the feeling of a dangerous place full of dangerous people.  As soon as I enter, I ask a deputy for permission to see one of the inmates.  He asks for my driver’s license as I explain that I am a minister there to visit a young man. He sets up the meeting in a small 8 x 8 conference room, furnished only with a single chair. A video screen is mounted on one wall next to a phone. There are no paintings or other fixtures in this cubicle. It is austere, yet practical. As I sit in the quiet, I have a few moments to gather my thoughts and contemplate what words I will say that will have any bearing on this young man’s life. The night before, I rehearsed several scriptures and prayed to God that He would give me the wisdom and the words to make a difference.

A few minutes pass, then suddenly, the monitor comes on and I am now viewing the inside of the holding area. Several inmates are milling about, one is sweeping the floor with a broom, a few are off to one corner watching as one inmate is cutting the hair of another.  All are wearing orange trousers and pullover shirts. Soon, a young man comes over to the front of the screen and sits down on a stool that he has brought with him.  He picks up the phone and places it next to his ear and holds it there with his shoulder as he rubs his eyes and head as if he has been on a long journey and just wants to get out of the car.  A small commotion between other inmates occurs behind him and off-screen.  Before we can even begin our conversation, he drops the phone and wheels around instinctively. Apparently, it was nothing as he comes back into view, places the phone next to his ear, rubs his head again and warily says hello. The whole scene reminds me of a cat who is cautiously coming to let you pet it and at the last second is startled by something in its peripheral vision, only to recover and timidly try again.

We talk for a good while as he begins to relax and, I sense trust to some degree of my intentions. I quoted several scriptures to him, imploring him of the need to trust in God and seek His ways. I tried my best to get him to understand that he has choices and that he is not a victim and that the path he chooses now will determine how his life will forever play out. I told him that God had given him the choice. I asked him this question, “Do you like it in there?” He said, “NO!” I said to him, “Then choose another path.” He said that he had made bad choices and I took that opportunity to proclaim the good news of Jesus and how great and wonderful that path is.

Whether this young man will make the right choices is entirely up to him.  I hope and pray that I said something that will prick his heart to action. To walk away from such a meeting sometimes leaves me feeling like I’ve come too late.With Christ however, all things are possible (Phil.4:13).

So we must turn our attention to those who have not ventured down the wrong path and encourage the young and old alike to make sound and Godly choices.  We may not be able to rescue those who have fallen from the ship into the great tempest, but we must certainly train and advise those still aboard to heed the warnings.

The best preventative for taking the wrong course in life is to first understand the paths that are before you.  So often, parents fail their children, by simply letting them figure out things for themselves.  I couldn’t disagree more.  God clearly states that we are to “train up a child in the way in which he should go, and he will not depart from it.” Prov.22:6.  Part of that training is going down the right paths ourselves.  If we don’t want our children to find themselves behind bars, let’s make sure we’re emphasizing a respect for all authority above us.  Do our children see us speeding, skipping on taxes, belittling dignitaries like commissioners, mayors, congressmen, senators, policeman, or even the President? If from an early age the only path my children have seen me take is one of cynicism and contempt for those who hold authority over me, they will follow my footsteps and perhaps grow to have little regard for the law and those who uphold it.

Another path I can lead my children down is one void of faith. I was blessed to have parents who took the faithful way.  They went to church for every service.  They prayed often, they studied their Bibles. They invited many strangers into our home. They cared for the needy, visited the sick and afflicted, and best of all proclaimed the gospel in many ways. Their faith was in action not just by their words but by their deeds.  Children are smarter than we give them credit for and  when we pretend to be Christians through vain words, by our fruits they will know who we really are. When we tell them they shouldn’t drink or smoke or watch terrible things on the television, are we showing them that’s the path I’m on or just pointing to the sign that marks the trail head?  If I don’t want to see my children spend a life of misery I’d better pay attention to the path I’m on and make sure it’s a path of faithfulness towards God. (Ps.89:33; Ps.119:30; Prov.16:6)

Still another path that leads to destruction is a crooked path of despair, resentment, anger, and bitterness. There should be happiness in the home.  It should be a place of refuge and peace. It’s unrealistic of course to expect every moment to be full of joy and excitement, but it should be the norm, one where fighting and fussing are rare and short lived.  Christ presented us the best example of this in John 16:33  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Perhaps this one avenue of all others, one void of hope, is the single most cause for incarceration among young people today – a broken and dispirited home, a home where there is no love of God or family or country.  Work becomes drudgery. Home becomes a prison, family a nuisance to avoid.  It doesn’t just start overnight.  We must always be on the guard against anger and discontent with others. We do not have the luxury of venting our frustrations upon our spouses and children. To the contrary, as husbands and fathers our duty is to protect and even lay down our lives for them (Eph.5:25). When our children see that we have taken the path of joy and contentment, they too will follow.  They will see that we are not victims of the degradation that surrounds us all, but better they will see us as heroes, ones who have conquered life.   Rom 8:37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Let us lead them down the right path.

 

Darryl Fuller