Here’s a little gem I wrote when my kids were much younger that never made it to the blog. Hope this life lesson brings a smile to your face today and gives you pause to ponder keeping anger under control, as well.
When you’ve got to get it out, she says, you’ve got to get it out.
While we were busy confronting this problem, I overheard a radio program on a similar theme. Anger, most people believe, needs to be released or it, too, will bubble up inside you until you explode. And once you release it, supposedly you will feel better. In other words, anger must be like farting. But I don’t believe anger works that way. When we’re angry, if we let it out all at once, we may not get rid of it. In fact, venting anger can actually make us angrier, unless we do it carefully.
When we’re angry, we often use harsher words than we really mean.
And “reckless words pierce like a sword”. Proverbs 12:18a
Those words can hurt the other person horribly, making them angry, too.
My kids get along wonderfully 95% of the time. But when they get angry, the house is filled with wails of, “you never want to play with me!”, or “you’re such a mean sister!”, until finally you hear, “I don’t want to play with you ever again!”, and a door slams somewhere. When such words are said, both girls invariably end up in indignant tears.
Thankfully, though, our house is now becoming more peaceful thanks to an object lesson I have recently tried. Here’s what you do: take two paper plates, two tubes of toothpaste, two popsicle sticks and a $10 bill. Tell the kids to empty their tubes of toothpaste onto the paper plates, and then tell them whoever gets the toothpaste back in the tube first can have the $10. Don’t worry; you won’t be out any money. The task simply can’t be done.
Toothpaste, like words, can’t be put back in. Once it’s out, it’s out.
We adults need this lesson, too. After all, if our relationships with our family members are the most precious things to us, then we should make sure we’re treating them with tender care. Running a steamroller over our beloveds as we list all their real and imaginary faults isn’t exactly protecting those relationships.
We’ve had to learn this the hard way, since my husband and I are both very stubborn and hotheaded. It’s one reason I’ve never spanked my kids; I’m afraid if I let myself I’d do it in anger. Instead, when I’m really mad, I usually tell the kids to go anywhere, as long as they’re not near me, until I have a chance to calm down and sort out an appropriate response. This usually makes them very penitent, as they both hate having to be alone, and so defuses the situation for all of us.
Sometimes everyone needs a time-out.
Perhaps you need to put that colicky baby into a playpen and take some deep breaths, or to tell that wayward teenager who walked in at 2:30 in the morning that you’ll discuss it tomorrow, when you’ve all had a chance to calm down. Or maybe, when your husband arrives home late from work again, it’s time to go for coffee with a girlfriend to give your white-hot wrath a chance to simmer down so you can discuss the issue later constructively.
The last time my kids had a fight I explained this concept to them.
Anger is not like farting. You can’t just blow up at each other; you need to identify the real problem and talk about only that.
I don’t know if they completely understand, but they’ve really caught on to the slogan. Let’s all treat our most precious relationships with the care they deserve. Maybe there are things that need changing, but don’t just attack someone you love. You can never put that toothpaste back in the tube.