One of the best “life lessons” I’ve ever learned came out of my divorce in 1996. Back then, I was angry a lot! I was told that it was a primary reason that my wife left me. She thought it was just a matter of time before my anger turned into physically abuse. Now, that would have never happened. But looking back, I can see why she felt that way. I made her fearful; and fear is fear, whether I think the reasons for it are rational or not.
Now Anger is not necessarily a bad thing. Even Jesus got angry when he flipped over the tables of the money-changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). But His was a purposeful, meaningful anger; and more importantly, He knew exactly what he was doing. Me? I was out of control. When I say I was angry, I don’t mean just being a little grouchy or ornery. I certainly didn’t have a righteous anger like Jesus. No, I was out-of-control, yelling at the top of my lungs, stomping around, pounding the table, and breaking things angry. I was like this on a very regular basis (especially at home). That kind of anger (was) is a problem. And it usually ended with me coming back later feeling shame or guilt.
So I did some soul-searching. I asked myself the most important question: Why? Why was I angry so often? What causes my most intense anger? What drives me to anger most quickly? After a lot of prayer, I realized that it was Frustration. When I get frustrated, I get angry almost immediately. Frustration makes me more angry than anything else.
If I wanted to stop being angry all the time, the best thing I could do is stop being frustrated all the time.
So then I asked myself a philosophical question, “What is Frustration?” Again, after a great deal of prayer, I concluded that frustration is what occurs when you are trying to control something over which you have no control. So there it is: I have control issues. I was trying to control circumstances, I was trying to control my wife and my kids. And I was not very successful at that.
It is important to understand what it is that we can control and what we can’t control. Here is a good illustration: Imagine your self holding a hula hoop. Place the hula hoop on the ground. Step inside the hula hoop. Everything inside the hula hoop: that’s what you can control. Everything outside of the hula hoop: you have no control. My wife, my kids, my work, people on the road, my circumstances, they are all outside my hula hoop.
There are only two people that can control my wife: my wife, and the Holy Spirit (God). Fortunately, that’s the same Holy Spirit that is in her is in me. So if I just give up control of the these things that are out of my hula hoop and give them to the Holy Spirit, then I’ll stop being frustrated; and if I’m not frustrated, then I won’t get angry. Could it be that simple?
Control –> Frustration –> Anger –> bad things –>shame/guilt
Now the churchy way of saying this is to “just lay your burdens at the foot of the Cross” (Matthew 11:28). Well I can tell you, there have been many times when I have flung my burdens at the foot of the cross! Often, it helps to say things like, “Ok, God! This is your problem now. I’m delegating this to you. It’s going in your in-basket. It’s not my problem anymore!” And you know what? God can handle it – whatever it is! When I give it to God, I’m delegating it to somebody who is very competent. Like any delegation, it may not get done exactly the way that I would get it done, but it gets done. This what they mean when they say “Let go and let God”.
Well that’s what I did with my wife. I stopped trying to control her. I gave it to God. I can tell you that the results were nothing less than miraculous. It was almost instantaneous. A huge burden was lifted from me. The anger just disappeared and was replaced with peace!
I have since repeated this process with many things outside of my hula hoop. As a result, I’m happy to report that it has been years since I’ve been out-of-control angry. I have way more peace and happiness in my life.
I sincerely hope this helps you to achieve the same.