Challenge the anger

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Although my dad would never hit us when we were growing up, he sure got mad at us. He would shout with an anger that seemed to penetrate to the core of my being. Sometimes he'd even throw whatever he was holding. Fortunately he didn't throw things at people, but his temper terrified me.

I recall how the worst of times was frequently when my brothers and I were at home for school breaks, and were apt to get restive. As we fretted, Dad would seethe and finally explode. Happy vacation? Not at those moments!

In recent years my dad has mellowed, which has made his life (as well as ours) easier. But when I married, I was determined not to repeat the scenario of being a male with a short fuse. To a great degree, I've succeeded; despite thin walls in our apartment complex, I'm sure the neighbors wouldn't report ever having heard me raise my voice in anger.

But nevertheless, I wouldn't claim total innocence on this issue of anger. It really depends on where you draw the line in weighing your attitude toward others, particularly loved ones. I draw the line by asking myself, "What is in my thinking?" Though I don't raise a fist or my voice to family members, I have "raised" my thoughts in anger at times.

"Big deal!" you may say. "It's not whether you're angry or not that counts, it's what you do about it that matters."

I'm not so sure. Clearly, it's far better not to be violent or shout or throw things. But in the Scriptures, Christ Jesus' words make it plain that a person's unspoken attitude is of key importance. Since no one expresses anger outwardly without first entertaining angry feelings inwardly, it's crucial to isolate anger and challenge it in ourselves - whenever and however it appears.

"Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" - a book authored by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor - asks, "Is it not clear that the human mind must move the body to a wicked act?" (pg. 104). If it is the human mind that motivates wrongdoing, then it is wise and right for us to stop self-centered and unspiritual thoughts when we find them coming.

As an example, I remember feeling at odds with a family member one evening. No raised voice on my part. No apparent violence. But as I sulked, I found myself wondering if all that stopped me from lashing out in frustration was the fact that I wasn't the kind of guy who did that - because I was thinking the self-justifying, self-righteous thoughts that could cause a violent reaction in someone who was that kind of guy.

That woke me up! And it made me take on the angry sulking in the way I have learned to deal with all problems: I started praying about it. Within minutes, the self-righteous anger drained out of me, and I found myself feeling - and being - supportive, and even tender.

So what kind of prayer was this, that turned the situation around so quickly and effectively? It was the mental action of acknowledging that I had a right to see this family member and myself as God sees us. The Bible says God made us in His "image" and "likeness," and this is universally true. God is infinite good. To be His image and likeness is to be good, to be spiritual and whole. In my prayer, I affirmed this was true for both of us. I understood that we had a God-given right - and the ability from God - to recognize this, regardless of the issue in dispute.

In the effort to see this family member as God did, I couldn't help but recognize God's own love for this child of His. Realizing this, I saw how to express love. And I wanted to do so. My anger suddenly seemed ridiculous, like an imposition on me that was not part of my own true, loving nature as God's child. That's what anger always is. Whether it leads to violence, or just soils the atmosphere of the home, anger is never a disposition created by God, because it doesn't express the nature of God - of infinite Love.

The "kind of guy" (or woman) prone to a bad temper just isn't who God's child truly is! To begin to know this and prove it is a true gift to give your family.

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