My mom always said that I was born angry. She would tenderly tease that I was really a Viking, because from my earliest of days I had a short fuse and sharp tongue. Of course, my teenage feelings about her perspective on my temperament was along the lines of “Whatever…it’s your problem not mine!” That was until I came to see how my anger negatively impacted my friendships, created havoc at work, and put a strain on my marriage right from the beginning.
I entered into counseling to work through my “anger issues” and came to the conclusion that my behavior was a result of my environment and upbringing, and the solution was simply to manage my life better so that my fuse wouldn’t run short. I discovered my irritability triggers, like too little sleep, being hungry, not getting through my to-do list, last minute change of plans, and did my best to manage my lifestyle in order to avoid an explosion.
But see, while I could "control" my time, I couldn’t control others — especially when those “others” happened to be my children. Managing triggers simply wasn’t enough when it came to avoiding my anger issues with my kids. And no matter how much I prayed and read my Bible, it seemed that my desire for the “gentle and quiet spirit” escaped my grasp. While I looked like the perfect Christian wife and momma on the outside, my heart was filled with disappoint and condemnation knowing how often I fell short behind closed doors.
By God’s grace, my husband called me out on my ugly behavior at the same time the Lord was calling me to investigate the state of my heart.
That’s when I ended up in counseling and poignantly discovered the essence of what was in my heart and giving way to what was coming out of my mouth (Matthew 12:33-35). My heart was stored up with unforgiveness toward my parents, bitterness over the dysfunction of my childhood, regret and shame over my rebellious years, fear of failure and a pursuit of perfection and people pleasing.
Yes, I was a mess and needed a spiritual heart transplant. By God’s grace, that’s exactly what He did. He healed my heart of every wound and made room for His love to fill every nook and cranny.
But was that enough to make my anger go away?
Yes. And no. The change in my heart led to a radical transformation in my behavior over the next few years. Enough of a change that my older girls noticed the difference and would comment, “Mom, why are you getting angry now? You don’t do that any more!” But still, there was this part of me, on the inside, that wanted to rise up and spew ugly all too often and I’ve finally figured out why.
I was born this way. I was born angry !!
Not angry, as my mom thought. It’s way more complicated than that. I believe God has wired me up like the poster-child for the Choleric personality, which means I like to get things done, I see vision, I understand how to orchestrate situations to accomplish goals. Those are the lovely strengths of the Choleric. It’s the weaknesses, however, that seem to cause the problem, such as becoming easily angered, tending to use anger to manipulate, frustrations when things don't move along fast enough, and pre-occupation with achievement.
The way God made me is good — but if I’m not yielded to Him with my strengths and weaknesses, I’ll make a mess of my life and my relationships.
The fact is that I will always have a propensity toward anger, much like Paul’s thorn in his side. But by God’s grace, anger doesn’t have to control me.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me, I can walk in step with the Spirit — sensitive to my triggers and surrendering to God my issues and frustrations — as I grow in trusting God with the things that seem to make me the most crazy.
This trusting-God-thing and looking at life from an eternal-perspective really does help keep me calmer! And I know it can help you, too. I pray that if you’re a born-angry sister, you'll find hope in knowing that God made you for a good purpose, too. It’s time to embrace how you’re made as you seek God for any healing you need in your wounded heart and for the Holy Spirit to come alive within you, so that you may walk in His ways, especially as a mom whose kids may one day say, “Mom, you don’t get angry like that any more!”
For more encouragement on how to overcome angry, come by elisapulliam.com.
This post is part of the month-long challenge From Grouchy...To Great. Please check the series page for all of the posts!