Mommas, how many of you find yourself struggling with anger more often than you’d like to admit? You aren’t alone. When the daily pressures of your career, home responsibilities, and the general busyness of life are met with crying babies, complaining or disobedient children, or teenage attitudes, it is hard to keep anger at bay. Being a mom is hard and our circumstances sometimes create the perfect storm, allowing our anger to rain down on everyone in our path, especially our children. It can be discouraging and self-condemning when you reflect on all the times you yelled, used a harsh tone, or spoke sarcastic or cruel words to your children.
I hope I can offer you some encouragement! My prayer is that you would be able to uncover the root of the issue and use biblical principles in this ongoing battle against anger.
We know that our angry outbursts are sinful; however, anger in and of itself is not. God created us with many emotions, and it is good and healthy to allow ourselves to experience those emotions. However, Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26 both say, “be angry and do not sin”. The things that cause us to sin in our anger are outlined throughout scripture: wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth (Colossians 3:8), grumbling, arguing (Philippians 2:14), blaming, arrogance/condescendence (Jude 1:16), bitterness, rage, brawling (Ephesians 4:31). We know these things are wrong and we know when our anger manifests itself in these ways that it is hurtful and damaging to our children. I imagine when you read through that list, you thought “those are ways I would never want to speak to my children!” For most of us, these are not deliberate, thought out words for our children; rather they come out in a rash burst of anger in response to our children’s’ disobedience or their inability to meet our expectations (spoken or unspoken, attainable or unrealistic). Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” When we are quick to anger and hasty to show our temper, we are being foolish. There is no understanding, no “benefit of the doubt”, no grace.
If anger is typically sinful when you respond hastily, then the remedy is to slow down. Psalm 4:4 says “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and in silent.” Take time to examine your anger away from your kids. Stop and think about what is making you angry. Is it really about what your children did/didn’t do? Or is it about you, your heart, your sin? Matthew 15:18 says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” If sinful anger is something you are struggling with, I challenge you to ponder your heart and consider how your own sin, fear, guilt, hurt, and whatever else is in your heart impact the way your anger is expressed. Even if your anger is justified, is the way you are showing it justified?
Contrary to the list above of how we should not act, Galatians 5:22 outlines the characteristics that should be evident in us as Christians (even when we are angry) – “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Trying to control my anger in the moment goes something like this:
1. Take some deep breaths BEFORE speaking
2. Pray. This is usually a quick “Lord, help me”
3. If I am not calm enough to respond in a way that shows the fruits of the Spirit or if things start to get out of hand, then it is time for a mommy time-out
When I am struggling with anger, the most helpful thing I can do in a “time-out” is run through the fruits of the Spirit to see where I am lacking. It’s like running diagnostics to identify the root of the problem, assess how it is spreading from my heart to my mind and mouth, and find the right antidote.
Am I responding with love?
Is my joy rooted in Christ or in this circumstance?
Am I maintaining peace or in a power struggle?
Was I simply being impatient?
Are my words, tone and facial expressions kind?
Am I reflecting God’s goodness, grace and mercy?
Am I being a faithful steward of the children God has given me and disciplining them in a way that strengthens their faith?
Is my voice gentle?
Am I under control?
Answering these questions helps me to see where my sin is coming from so that I am able to pray about it more specifically, find scripture to meditate on that is directly related to that issue, and be more mindful of using and showing the fruit of the Spirit I am lacking in.
This is hard, ugly work. It is so much easier to be upset and blame someone else than to assess our own sin. But the more you get in the rhythm of doing this, the easier it becomes and the quicker you are able to recover.
If you feel like this is something you’ve always struggled with and you aren’t feeling very confident in your ability to change, consider Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. He talks about a “thorn” that was given to him, “a messenger of Satan to harass” him. He asks the Lord to remove it three times, but instead of removing it, God tells him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v.9) You are not left to figure this out on your own. God’s grace is sufficient for you and when you allow the Spirit to work in you, overcoming your weaknesses brings even more glory to God’s name than if the thorn had never been there.