Angry at Home
Ephesians 4:1,2 Walk… with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…
As is often the case, I read this passage yesterday, knowing it was important but not immediately seeing any issue there for me. Though I do not always get it right, I generally treat people with kindness. I kept having the nagging thought though that I was forgetting something. Is there some situation or place where I am less patient, kind and loving? Sadly, I came up with my home.
I assume that I am not alone in struggling with humility, gentleness and patience with those whom I love the most. Unfortunately, I often find it the easiest to let loose with my worst behavior with those to whom I am closest. When irritated, tired or hungry, I am most free to lose control of my tone or words at home.
This summer, when I first committed to cutting sugar from my diet, I found some success in weight loss, but I also found a short temper. Apparently, carbohydrates made me jolly and their absence made me, well, less jolly. My family finally called a meeting in which they begged me to eat a banana every once in a while. My first impulse was to be irritated with them for sabotaging my diet. I quickly realized that they were right. I had been short-tempered and in my attempt to eat better, had put them in the sites of my sugar-starved mood.
Did that irritability spill over into the rest of life? Oddly, I had enough self-control to maintain kindness and patience at work. I did not snap at coworkers or patients. This selective exercise of my self-control betrayed that I am capable of choosing my behavior. I am not a slave to my impulses. I just do not exercise that self-control at home.
Through the process, I relearned that though I do not always choose my mood, I alone choose my behavior. Sleep, eating and external stressors, can all affect my emotions. Sometimes I cannot help but feel irritated. A feeling is not necessarily wrong or destructive. It is the behavior that flows out of it that is destructive. There is a difference between feeling anger and acting out of anger. I can learn to control my behavior or I can be addicted to my emotions.
Like any other defect of my flesh nature, I can become enslaved to my mood. I can give into anger so many times, that it becomes a habit, from which I cannot break free. I do not want to snap at my wife or kids, but like a drug, I cannot stop. It controls me. Make no mistake, my caustic language and tone at home, though not as obviously destructive as drug use, can kill those relationships just the same.
If I find that my home is a harsh, unkind environment, I must ask what my part in it is. I can try to blame my work, lack of carbohydrates or family, but ultimately, only I am responsible for the words that come out of my mouth. Daily, I must choose to deny my defective behavior. Daily, I must make a conscious choice to pursue love, kindness and humility at home.