If you’re like me, inviting friends over always makes you astutely aware of the disarray of your home. In this particular instance, I experience a rude awakening to my extremely overgrown, neglected garden bed. As I feverishly get to weeding, my weed pile grows embarrassingly high. There is something exceptionally cathartic about losing myself in the smell of dirt, bark, and weeds.
But my peace promptly dissolves as my children, deep in conflict, find me outside to urgently pull me into their dispute. I wish I could say I was an exemplary mother at that moment. Instead, consumed by my own “emergency,” my anger spirals right along with them. In the middle of the dirt and heat, the resemblance between the spiritual and terrestrial is not lost on me. Amidst the bugs and the yelling, I recognize some serious pruning and cultivating that first needs to happen in my own heart. If you’ve been there, I hope I can encourage you today with three ways we can prune the weeds of anger.
Discern the Weeds. As parents, it is our duty to identify the “weeds” of anger in our own lives in order to give our children the tools to recognize unhealthy emotional patterns. While it may seem simple at first, it is crucial to first ask the Holy Spirit what a weed of anger actually looks like. Unfortunately, we often feel justified in our anger. We falsely believe we are righteous in continuing to cultivate such feelings. Over time, we prime our neural pathways to default to angry responses.
While there is certainly a time and place for God-given anger, my children do not have the experience or the wisdom to know the difference between a dandelion and a dahlia. Their unsuspecting hearts do not recognize the danger weeds pose to the garden. In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Paul warns us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” In the same way, Satan tempts an undiscerning person with anger that appears righteous or correct on the surface, but invariably these “weeds” come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
Target the Root. We all know that weeds start out small, but can grow to take deep roots. If you don’t unearth the entire root, they continue to regrow and take over. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus warns us that when good seeds fall into the wrong circumstances, they get choked out and fail to produce fruit (Matthew 13:22). A gardener diligently pulls out the weeds by the root to prevent their regrowth. Similarly, we must purposefully address the sinful patterns of anger that entangle us, and model that behavior for our children.
What generational traumas or sins are keeping our families from producing abundant fruits of the spirit? When we unearth the deep-rooted anger, we allow God to transform our hearts and cultivate a fruitful life.
Cultivate Intentional Boundaries. We differentiate between weeds and flowers in the way we choose to nourish them over time. It may seem painful at first. Maintaining healthy emotional boundaries requires earnestly weeding out the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, even relationship dynamics, which cultivate anger. Paul says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
In the same way, a gardener carefully designates where flowers are planted, we must discern the influences we allow into our lives. Ultimately, let’s remember that anger is simply a response to a trigger. It is not an immutable emotional state over which we have no control. Once we develop insight and awareness into our anger, we can set healthy boundaries to actively feed the fruits of the spirit. Just as our brains become molded with anger, we can also conform our hearts and minds to be rooted deeply in peace.
I realize perhaps my children were better spiritual teachers that day. When tempers flare, instead of allowing anger to overtake our hearts, run like children to your heavenly Father who cultivates endless grace and mercy. Prayerfully seek to grow in wisdom and discernment. May you find peace and reconciliation in God’s word, watered by the holy spirit.