When our pastor announced one Sunday that he was going to preach on anger, I heard a clear shout (in my head): Good! Because I AM angry!
Wow. Where did that come from? I mean, anger? At happy strong home? Yes, my friends, nobody is immune to the sin of anger. Today I want to talk about 5 ways I was surprised by anger in my mothering.
The two kinds of anger
That Sunday message revealed an important biblical truth about anger: there’s righteous indignation (that’s the kind God has) and there’s fleshly anger (the kind we most often have).
God’s anger, according to Scripture, is slow, small (a kindle, not a bomb!), and used profitably to change us. (Psalm 145:8, Psalm 6:1).
We are warned to “be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). How hard this is! In anger, we quickly snap, grow harsh, or heave that sigh of annoyance. My anger was not slow, not small, not life-changing!
I’d been dwelling on how to deal with angry reactions for some time, when Wendy Speake asked if I’d share her and Amber Lia’s new book, Triggers: Exchanging Parent’s Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. I’d been in their No More Angry MOB (moms of boys, but girls allowed too!) discussion group on Facebook for some time by then. Seriously, if you want a kind-hearted, biblically based motherhood support group – join this group!
My anger surprised me for two reasons:
a) You never expect to get mad at that sweet little dumpling handed to you in the hospital. Yet a day comes when you find yourself confronted by their human nature – and your own. And it may surprise you. For me it was the addition of baby #2 with the less rest, more stress, more noise, more mess that comes with having more kids! I found myself constantly losing my cool. I’m not a screamer or yeller, but let me tell you, kids can read an angry sigh just as clearly as a shout.
b) I mislabeled my anger as “righteous indignation.” I felt justified in getting upset when my kids disobeyed, made messes, and ran afoul of my best-laid-plans. I thought my anger was a motivating energy to get everyone back on track. I didn’t see how anger became my traveling companion long after the incident had passed, becoming a habit of being more than isolated responses.
I started to feel under-the-surface-angry all the time about my failure to have it all together. I tried to simply “put off” the anger. I kept tucking it out of sight. Thinking that was the last huffy sigh, the last angsty-cry, the last edgey-toned repeated command.
My mothering started feeling edgy and suspenseful in the worst sort of way. Like a jack-in-the-box, my anger kept popping out wild-eyed, surprising me each and every time!
What are we supposed to do with surprising mom anger?
The Bible gives us one answer for unrighteous anger: “put it away.” Not stuff it down, bottle it up, so it can explode again under pressure. We are told to “give place to wrath,” that is, to put wrath in its proper place: With God!
I think most of us work hard at “putting anger off,” but what do we replace our anger with? Often nothing, leaving us wide open for anger to rage back into our hearts and families, tearing destructive paths through our homes.
The real treasure of Triggers is how Wendy and Amber supply so many thoughtful, spiritual insights, Bible verses, and prayers to instruct us in how to replace our anger. As their tagline says, it’s a guide to Exchanging Parent’s Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. Exactly the kind of “putting on” we need as parents!
Here are 5 ways I was surprised by anger as a mom
Wendy and Amber talk about thirty-one anger triggers. (Thirty-one!). Here’s my five main triggers, and what I’ve learned from the Triggers book to help me “put off” my anger and “put on” a gentle and biblical response.
Trigger 1 – Noise. As a former teacher, I knew noise and chatter was one of my “buttons” because I am very noise sensitive. I mistakenly thought in my own home, I could control the noise factor. We’d read and play games and puzzles, and listen to CDs. Oh, but wait, I’m the mom of boys! I try to take delight in their noise, I do… but sometimes it is overwhelming.
Even the constant motion of little boys running here to there feels like visual noise to me. I physically feel myself swelling from the inside, and I try to deflate this feeling with a deep sigh. This, my friends, is simply anger brewing and eventually it erupts.
Wendy pens a prayer for these moments, a reminder to rest in God when we can’t find rest from the noise:
“You know that my heart’s desire is to learn to love them through the loud. Refresh me with Your peaceful Spirit…” Wendy Speake, Triggers
Trigger 2 – Mess. I am systemic. I am organized. I have methods and routines. Guess what? Babies are messy – they eat messy, they play messy. The don’t follow your schedule! You spend a lot of time patiently teaching them to clean up, only to find a mess again five minutes later! And sometimes, when you feel you’ve said it once and you’ve said it a million times? That’s when anger rings your bell loud and clear! And sometimes, you just throw open the door and say, Well, come in – we’re already a mess here!
Wendy reminded me we are sowing and reaping a harvest with our children. I know firsthand gardening is hard and messy work, but the harvest comes. How sweet is this fresh perspective:
“Embrace the harvest in your home, and thank God for the strong little creatures who are with you in the field each and every day.” Wendy Speake, Triggers
Trigger 3 – Repeating myself. As a teacher I learned that for something to stick, kids have to hear it… FIFTEEN TIMES! I don’t read books twice. Or watch movies twice. I don’t even like to order the same thing off menus at restaurants. One and done. So, when I start feeling like a broken record to my kids… that’s a trigger for me! Why? Because as Wendy so clearly relates, when we have to repeat instructions, we feel ignored. Which makes us feel “powerless, undervalued, and invisible.”
Although children do need to learn through repetition, sometimes we are dealing with a heart issue of disobedience. Instead of being angry (because we all have the same sin nature!), we can see it as a great opportunity. Wendy reminds us to learn to communicate well with our children in these moments:
“Speaking words that communicate clear expectations and consequences; expressing my feelings in appropriate ways…teaching my children that if they learn to listen to and honor me, the rest of their relationships … will go better.” ~Wendy Speake, Triggers
Trigger 4 – Being late. Being late makes my mind’s tachometer rev up into the red. And it creates a compounding problem: you rush to make up time, and instead make mistakes, forget things, cut corners that cost you later. Sometimes being late can’t be helped (hello, potty training!?), and sometimes it’s our kids dragging their feet. But more often, as Triggers revealed oh so gently, it is my own lack of margin causing the problem.
How do we respond when we’re late and stressed? Planning and preparation is a great start. You can also prepare for when you’re caught in the late zone! Wendy suggests to plan even our words ahead of time:
“Plan right words when their behavior [or yours!] is wrong…so that your behavior remains right.” ~Wendy Speake, Triggers
Trigger 5 – Exhaustion. Aren’t we all functioning on far too little sleep? I let myself get exhausted, and then I push myself… one step further, and suddenly there is no strength left to deal with all. those. other. triggers! Moms, self care is not selfish care. We all need rest. “Be not weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9). What is more “well doing” than raising our children? We need rest in all this doing. Sometimes that will be physical rest – and other times it will be resting in God’s grace that He will provide a way through.
When we are tired, we must dig deeper, speak slower, think more carefully…Be exhausted if you must, but give your kids your best self anyway. ~Amber Lia, Triggers
For me, Exhaustion is the trigger that makes all the others seem worse. Parenting will be messy, noisy, repetitive, always-feeling-behind-the-game… But when we are truly resting in Christ… He can make the mess beautiful. He can make the noise joyful. He can make the repetition be a song of praise from our lips, and He can make a way where we thought there was no way. If we just would rest in Him!
You and I don’t have to be surprised by anger again
Can you relate to being angry as you parent? Is it surprising to you too? Maybe your triggers are different – Amber and Wendy cover thirty-one different anger triggers with a biblical response for each in their book!
The thing is, we don’t always know how to respond to surprises. Too often our reactions are ungraceful, knee-jerk, or even sinful.
God was already dealing with me about replacing my anger with His grace and rest. Yet the problem seemed so diverse and overwhelming, I wasn’t always sure HOW to respond God’s way in those surprising moments. I wonder if you ever feel the same?
Triggers is a book that cuts to the chase for parents – directing our thoughts right to the applicable scriptures for each situation. I hope I’ve shown you a glimpse, through my top 5 triggers, exactly how the Triggers book has been influential in guiding me towards a spiritual response to anger. Putting on gentleness instead of letting anger run its course.
Each chapter in Triggers is instructive and points back to God as our refuge in this trouble. Through real-life anecdotes, scripture references, and prayers, Wendy and Amber lovingly guide us in addressing so many anger triggers. I enjoyed each chapter, because I view it as preparing myself spiritually to handle future triggers.
I don’t have to be surprised by anger again. I might be surprised by what life throws at me. I will likely make mistakes as a mom. I can assure you there will be situations that make me angry, but I don’t have to choose the angry response. I can trade in my angry response for a spiritually-sought, well-thought grace-bought reaction.
Get your copy of Triggers and put away anger for good!
I read a lot of parenting books, and I can tell you I’ve never seen a book devoted to the topic of anger for moms and parents before. It’s truly a resource you can refer to again and again.
Win a copy of Triggers right here!
Wendy and Amber have graciously donated two paperback copies of Triggers for me to give away here on the blog. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form!
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