Why do I choose to make the same mistakes over and over and over?
My name is Scott, I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I struggle with anger, selfishness and foolishness (and much more). Today I want to camp out on my anger issues and how they affect my marriage and family. Jerry Bridges, in the excellent book Respectable Sins, defines anger as “a strong feeling of displeasure, usually of antagonism, often accompanied by sinful emotions, words and actions hurtful to these who are the objects of our anger.” My anger doesn’t lead me to throw things or physically hurt others, but it can manifest itself in me doing and saying some pretty dumb things from time to time.
A few weeks ago, I relearned the meaning and the wisdom of the phrase “don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” In Ephesians 4:26, the apostle Paul says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger….” The context is within a larger chunk of scripture in Ephesians 4:25-32 related to how we talk to one another and how we are to build one another up with our words instead of tearing each other down.
Before Sunday morning comes Saturday night
I relearned this powerful principle in the midst of an argument with my nine year-old son. On a recent Saturday night, he and I got into a minor disagreement related to our usual father-son wrestling and tickling matches. We each went to bed frustrated with the other and the dispute continued at the breakfast table Sunday morning. You guessed it: right before our family got in the car to head to church.
When our frustrations with each other manifested themselves on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, all it would have taken was for me to apologize, seek forgiveness, choose humility and move on. I guess he could have done the same, but let me remind you he’s a nine-year-old. I’m just a wee bit older than that!
With our unresolved dispute in tow, I got in my car to drive to church so I could serve as the announcement and meet and greet guy at our 9:00 service. As I drove into the parking lot, I noted the irony of serving in a public capacity even while being in the midst of some ‘conflict’ with my son. Again, all it would have taken was for me to do what Matthew 5:23-24 says and reconcile with my brother (son) before I chose to serve others and worship God (as a complete and total hypocrite, might I add).
Would it have been so hard to say, “I’m sorry, son. Would you please forgive me for my anger, my stubbornness and my hard-heart? Would you forgive me for not apologizing and seeking a restored relationship Saturday night? Would you forgive me for being prideful and thinking I am better than you?”
All I needed to do was to be humble, apologize, affirm my love for him and make a promise to resolve our conflict when I got home from church. Would that have been so hard? Not really. Instead, I chose to be prideful. Every time I do this, I crush his little spirit. The better choice would have been to:
- Confess to the Lord about my anger and pride as sin (Psalm 51:4).
- Confess to others, especially my spouse and child, about my sinful pride and anger (1 John 1:9, James 5:16).
- Apologize to my son, followed by asking for his forgiveness (1 Peter 5:5b-7).
I didn’t need to resolve the tension/conflict before I left for church that morning. We didn’t need to hold hands and sing praise and worship together. But, I could have, and should have, not let the sun go down on my anger.
How about you? When you get in conflict with your spouse or kids do you choose to resolve the issue on the spot, or do you sweep it under the rug and let it fester? Do you nip it in the bud or do you let the sun go down on your anger with hopes that it would all go away with the rising of the sun?
By the way, just to close the loop on the story, when I got home from church, I did all the above. We had a great conversation and everything was just about immediately resolved. In the big picture, not a huge deal. But, I did walk through several hours of guilt, shame and frustration that all could have been avoided if I had not let the sun go down on my anger! Lesson learned.
How do you do at resolving conflict? Do you avoid it like the plague or do you resolve to not let the sun go down on your anger?
Scott Kedersha, scottkedersha.com