The other day I was feeling harried, grumpy, and rushed. As I drove to a lunch appointment, I realized how impatient I was with the traffic and with myself. I also realized that my internal conversation was bent of self-criticism. I was angry with myself for how I handled a recent confrontation.
I began to pray the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner) over and over as I made my way to lunch. About an hour later, as I pulled into a parking place, I realized my soul was at peace. The anger and self-criticism had dissolved.
I also realized in that moment that during past few weeks I had allowed a crack to open for Old Scratch (Satan) to enter my heart. He gleefully used self-criticism as his primary weapon to encourage me to indulge my anger and punish myself. My praying, treating myself kindly, and returning to God put a stop to it, for which I am grateful.
This experience reminded me that anger is a normal emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It provides us with a useful warning that something isn’t right and emboldens us to act. How we act and respond to our angry feelings, however, determines if our actions will tear down or build up ourselves and other people.
Consider the difference in outcome if the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, had chosen not to indulge his anger but rather paused, prayed, and sought God. Many lives would have not been lost or destroyed, and he may have found peace and healing rather than death.
We have a choice. We can choose to pause and pray when we become angry and to respond with love and kindness or we can choose to lash out or indulge our anger by holding grudges, stoking hatred, and seeking revenge. The first way leads to life and the second to spiritual and sometimes physical death.
Pausing to discern why we are angry and if our anger is justified keeps us from striking out and potentially hurting others and ourselves unnecessarily. Pausing also gives us time to calm down and regain our perspective. Praying allows us to seek God’s will and to consider the other person’s viewpoint and what may have prompted that person to treat us badly.
Very often, we can more successfully resolve differences with kindness rather than with harsh words or actions. Offering others and ourselves grace creates space for a win-win resolution. This is not to say be a doormat, but there is greater strength in kindness and love.
As we grieve the tragic loss of life, and at any time in your life when you become angry, I encourage you turn away from secular culture’s penchant for shame, blame, anger, and get even. Try instead to pause, pray, and respond with kindness and love. The results may surprise you.
Christian Spiritual Direction helps seekers listen for God, become more aware of His presence and movement in their lives, and discern how best to respond to His invitation to live a more fulling Christian life. If spiritual direction is something you would like to explore or you have been in spiritual direction and are looking for a spiritual director, please call me at 404.771.9335.
May God bless and protect you.
Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®