We all have it.
We all struggle with it.
I have to actively work at not becoming bitter or angry about my illness.
One thing I have noticed in the autoimmune community is the idea that we are justified in being bitter about these horrible illnesses we have. But, that is not the kind of person I want to be. I want to live a life that honors my Lord. These are some ideas I shared in a Facebook group, ideas about dealing with anger. I still struggle, daily, but I pray that I am getting better at turning to the Lord with my laments –a form of worship– rather than taking my frustrations out on my family –a sin.
Practical ways to deal with anger Biblically:
❀ Post this verse everywhere and memorise it. It really helped me. It was my screensaver for years: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:6
❀ Practice speaking quieter. This is challenging but really helps. When you feel the yell coming on, actively work on speaking softly, so that you have to increase the volume even more to be yelling. I Peter 3:4 says we should have a meek (meaning gentle, humble) and quiet spirit.
❀ Find a supplement like Rescue Remedy that helps calm you when you are stressed. Most of my yelling is when my adrenals start to feel taxed. Learn your body’s clues to when you are starting to get overwhelmed and address it before you reach critical mass.
❀ Put yourself in “timeout.” Have a place where the children know that they need to give you space when you are there. I have never used time out with my children. The only one who goes in time out is me. That means me in my bed with my Bible, recentering myself, focusing on the One I should be focusing on (instead of focusing on me). I need to do this more often.
❀ Humble yourself. Don’t be afraid to tell the children that you are only human too, in need of grace, struggling, and that God is still working on you. They already know you aren’t perfect. 😉 Children don’t need perfect parents; they need surrendered parents.
❀ Don’t be afraid to apologize. We all lose our tempers. That’s the honest truth. The keys is what we do about it. Our children need to see us living a life that is honest, seeking their forgiveness when we have wronged them. We need to be willing to humble ourselves before our children and model the kind of humility they need to develop themselves. We are giving them the tools for their adulthood. Even Christ humbled himself and became a servant. Ideally, we would never yell, but, since that is not likely to happen, the next best thing is that we model humility when we have sinned.
❀ Have a code word that means “Mom is reaching her limit and everyone needs to calm down now.” Our word is “overload,” and anyone can use it in our house when they start to get overwhelmed. When it is used, everyone knows to calm down and be quieter. It is necessary for survival in our house, because all of us deal with Sensory Processing Disorder which makes it hard to deal with chaos and loud noises.
❀ Pray, pray, pray. Ask the Lord to soften your anger and temper your frustration.
❀ Surrender. Often our frustration comes, not from our image of what God wants, but of our image of the ideal that we want, and we get angry when our expectations aren’t met. Surrendering our expectations to the Lord can make a huge difference. Letting go of the ideal of perfection was entirely necessary for me. It has made a huge difference in my frustration level, but it has also freed me to function the best I can with less guilt and anger. I think that surrender has been, hands-down, the most effective defence against my anger.
❀ Keep perspective. Because I have a serious chronic illness, for a long time I was angry that I was so sick and my anger would come out at my children sometimes. I kept a photo of a friend who had cancer on the fridge so that, when I started feeling sorry for myself, I could remember that a) someone else had it worse than me, and I should not be feeling sorry for myself, and b) I would pray for her and see a change in my heart-attitude. When you feel sorry for yourself, refocus on someone else who really needs prayer. Even if I was dying, there would be someone I could pray for, because I know people whose souls are in need of a Savior.
❀ Cuddle your babies. Wrap your arms around your children, and let them hear you pray for them out loud. It is really hard to stay angry at someone who you’re praying for. There’s also something soothing about the physical hugging of a child. It’s very maternal, very nurturing, and tends to remind us of what is really important: the child’s soul.
❀ Play. Stop what you’re doing, and take a few minutes to dance around kitchen with the children or tackle them with tickles on the living room floor. Replace what could be a bad experience of mom yelling with an intentional happy memory of laughing and playing with mom. They’re only little for a while. Too soon they’ll be grown. Laughing also releases endorphins, the happy feelings. Solomon said laughter is like medicine in Proverbs 17:22.
❀ Learn to Lament. Read through Psalms, and learn about the concept of Biblical lamenting. Lamenting is bringing our pain to God. It is a form of worship. For some reason, it is a modern Christian idea that we are never supposed to be anything but happy. I remember hearing something like this “We are saved! Out of all the people in the world, we have hope, therefore we should never be sad and only ever be happy.” That sounds good, but it isn’t Bible. We are supposed to praise God through everything, but not in a fake way. Lamenting works through the frustrations in our lives and bring us to a place where we can praise Him just like King David in so many of the chapters of Psalms. If you want to know about lamenting, read the book of Psalms. He starts out with all his frustrations, and by the end of the chapter, he is back to praising the Lord. Look for a youtube video series called “Lamenting is Worship” that explains this idea better than I can.
I think a lot of my anger in my early years as a mom was a result of the fact that I thought I was never allowed to lament the frustrating stuff that happened to me. I was also a very angry child. Lamenting has freed me up to tell Jesus all about the horrible stuff, and –I hope– show others kindness.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a work in progress. I still snap at my kids, often daily. But, it is less now than it used to be. These things have really helped me. I pray that they will help you as well.