Anger

Step 4: Deliberately Neglect Yourself.

If your primary motivation for defeating anger is self improvement you wont be able to do it.

You can only get over anger if you first get over yourself.

This is different than we imagine.

We anticipate paths to self transformation will involve paying attention to ourselves in new ways. We are taught will need to be more mindful, aware, in touch, and present than ever before.

Those paths don’t work. They might get you ahead of your anger, but it will still be chasing you. And you are defined by what you are running from.

Jesus says this path where we are trying to improve ourselves by focusing on ourselves  leads through the “wide gate”; giving it a name which highlights how well traveled the path is.

Those who are headed through the wide gate see a better version of themselves at the end of the path, fix their eyes on that, and inevitable when they reach the end of the path are disappointed because they have not changed nearly as much as they had hoped. They find themselves waiting at the end of the road.

Reminds me of a scared teen in a horror movie.  The poor kid is sprinting through the yard looking over their shoulder only to find the guy with the meat cleaver is waiting for them in the shed. When you are headed to the ‘wide gate’ what you are running from is actually waiting for you when you stop running.

I couldn’t get over anger when my motivation was simply to make my life better because a preoccupation with myself was fueling my anger. As long as the driving question was, “How can I improve?”, I was shooting steroids into the very animal I was trying to domesticate. I had new reasons for being angry. I was trying really hard now! Shouldn’t everyone notice and appreciate all the improvements I have made!?

If your focus remains on yourself you will always feel entitled to your anger. This means what you are really aiming for is to be saved from the consequences of your anger and not the actual elimination of anger from your life. An elevated and prominent self always has reasons, and the right, to be angry.

To truly defeat anger you have to get over yourself and so your motivation can’t be to make your life better.

You will need to think about yourself less, not more.

Which means you will need someone else to think about.

I suggest Jesus.

Jesus offers a different path. One harder to find, but it is worth walking because it actually changes you. You walk it by fixing your eyes, not on a better version of yourself, but on Jesus. When you reach the narrow gate at end of this path you are delighted because it is hard to tell who is who anymore.

I mean by this, you have become like Jesus.

The Jesus way out of anger involves deliberately choosing to think of yourself less, and Him more.

 

Anger, Pastoring

Step 3: Lower The Bar.

So how did it go?

Last week you were to intentionally do what you hate by submit to something you thought was ridiculous, annoying, or a waste of time. And, you weren’t supposed to let anyone know.

My bet is it didn’t go so good.

I bet you couldn’t keep it secret.

I bet what started as submission ended up as suppression and the cork on the bottle eventually blew off and nailed someone in the eye.

You had a hard time submitting to your co-worker, spouse, traffic laws, boss, or physiotherapist. You took 13 items into the ’12 items or less line’. You were passive aggressive. You hinted at martyrdom. You huffed and puffed. You poked back in some way. You weren’t as good at submission as you thought you might be.

So we need to make it easier for you this week as we try again. Let’s lower the bar. This week let’s practice submitting to someone who, at least in theory, ought to be easier to submit to.

Let’s practice submitting to Jesus.

This will be easier on you for three reasons.

First, Jesus is smarter than you.

As you take the surprisingly difficult step of submitting to someone a million times more brilliant than you are it will help you grow to a place where it is easier to submit to someone less intelligent than Jesus. You train with lighter kettle bells so you can eventually slay THE BEAST.

Second, immediate beneficial byproducts.

It will become very obvious you are better off following the path set out by the master teacher of the human race than the path you are cobbling together from Netflix documentaries and podcasts. His commandments are not arbitrary. They reveal reality and align you with it. You will enjoy standing on solid ground.

Third, He is the only one who is able to give you the power to do what pleases Him. Submitting to Jesus is like riding an e-bike up a hill. You are still steering and pedaling but there is a power available which isn’t your own. This is a pleasant surprise.

Submitting to someone who you know is brilliant and on your side is an easy way to train and grow your fundamental submission skills. The breakthrough moment happens when you realize anger has become a choice and not a reflex.

And now that you are not automatically angry you realize anger is actually only one of many options available when you don’t get our way.

You realize you can survive without getting your way all the time.

You begin to have options you didn’t have before.

You get there by submitting to Jesus.

This week, choose one of his teachings and follow it.

As before, keep it a secret from everyone but Him.

And remember to ask Him for help.

It will go better for you this week.

Keep in mind, we are still only talking about managing anger – we haven’t killed it yet.

But, we are well on our way, because once you submit to Jesus there are a whole bunch of trans-formative options which rise up on the horizon.

Anger, Spirituality

Step 2: Do What You Hate.

Angry people hate “being forced” to do stuff.

They hate being forced:

  • to drive three hours each way for a two hour Thanksgiving supper at their uncle in laws cabin.
  • to spend money on new sheets instead of new speakers.
  • to stay home and clean the basement instead of going on a bike ride.
  • to buy surprisingly expensive birthday gifts for people they don’t really know that well.
  • to go to a training re-certification which is an absolute waste of time.
  • to slow down because they got cut off in traffic.

And because they hate it, they will let you know about it.

The drive to the cabin will be filled with huffing and puffing and itemization of all the things the family could do with the gas money.

The basement clean up will probably involve a bad word yelled loudly enough so everyone knows just how costly psychologically missing out on a bike ride can be. “Is this what you wanted? Is this what you wanted?!!!! Making me all tense around the kids!!!”

If you are angry, you’ve been there, but you don’t need to stay there. You can keep moving away from anger by learning to submit.

I know you hate to submit; but let me at least explain how this might work before you bail.

Those people you envy? The peaceful ones whose families aren’t scared of them? The one’s whose spouses don’t cringe in fear a few times a day? The ones who can trust themselves? Let’s call them “peaceful people.” Peaceful people have learned to be content even when things they don’t like are happening. Angry people, like you, have never learned this skill. You believe peace can only come when you get your way, so you spend tremendous energy trying to arrange reality to meet your needs.

This is misguided. It has never worked, and will never work, not because we lack the ability to perfectly arrange our lives (although we do, and that makes us even angrier), but because anger is an “inside you” problem and not an “outside you” problem.

You become a peaceful person not by getting really good at manipulating externals, but by developing your character. Eventually, you get to a place where you possess such peace you are not blown and tossed by every wave. Ultimately, you bring peace with you into tense situation. You don’t just have peace. You get to be the shade people rest under.

Submission, isn’t the goal, but it is a non-negotiable tool to build your peaceful character. As you voluntarily choose to not get your way, you are training yourself for those times when you wont get your way.  You are re-training your reflexes. You are one step closer to being anger free.

When I first tried this sort of submission training, I was terrible. I tried to submit, but I couldn’t let things go. I was classic passive aggressive. Maybe I’d pretend to have a good attitude or look submissive on the outside.  But then I’d inevitably drop hints about what I really thought of this, or how I was only playing along because I was working on submission. In fact, the only reason I was doing this stupid thing you want me to do is because I was humbly growing my character.

I remember Tamara told me, “I don’t think it counts if you talk about it that way.”

She was right.

Submission needs silence to be formative.

This week in your quest to defeat anger, it is really practical.

Do something you hate.

Find something you have previously felt forced to do and do it with a good attitude. It can be small. It can be laughable. It’s OK if it is embarrassing, because you aren’t going to tell anyone anyway.

Then come back next week for Step #3.

 

Anger

Step 1: Realize Jesus doesn’t want to help you manage your anger.

Jesus is not interested in helping you manage your anger.

Jesus is aiming much higher and diving much deeper.

He doesn’t want you to learn to control your temper. He is going to get you to a place where there is no temper left to control.

His way is not anger management. It is about having no anger left to manage.

He says:

“Unless your righteousness surpasses the righteousness that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

This is a teaching not about self control, but about becoming the kind of self who doesn’t need to be controlled.

The Pharisee is an ancient example of the kind of person we all know, and maybe know best when we look in the mirror.

The Pharisee is the person who has the willpower to not do bad things no matter how they feel inside. Cut a Pharisee off in traffic and they wont give you the finger. Check the criminal record of a Pharisee and you might find a parking ticket at best. Look at the Pharisees Instagram account and you’ll see some bible verses and a smiling wife. Their Google filter is set for the safest setting. It will all look fine.

But hang around a Pharisee for awhile and it soon wont feel so fine. There is something bubbling beneath the surface. It might come out as a prayer request for someone who is having an affair but you swear the Pharisee is more gleeful than concerned about the situation; maybe even envious.

Behind their pious veneer is a heart which would have an affair if they could get away with it – but they are stuck being a Christian. The discerning can, when in the presence of a Pharisee, begin to notice envy, contempt, lust, fear, and anger all bubbling beneath the surface.

It is the terrible fate of the Pharisee to have a life where they can never do what their heart truly desires to do. They are kept from fulfilling the desires of their heart by the constraints of their religion.

“If I wasn’t a Christian I’d head over there and shut him up for good.”

“If I wasn’t a (married) Christian I’d be able to just leave her and no one would blame me.”

“If I wasn’t a (tithing) Christian I’d be able to afford a nicer car too.”

Clearly, not all the Pharisees are dead.

It is a terrible to have the heart of a sinner stuck in the body of a saint, but this is not your fate. The Kingdom of Heaven is, at least in part, the state of mind and heart where your desires align with the desires of King Jesus and you can act on them freely. What you actually want is so good and life giving you are free to do whatever you want.

Your very heart has been transformed. This is what it means to “surpass the righteousness of the Pharisee.”

Jesus is not offering a way to control your sinful heart. He is going to give you a new heart. He is offering a self which doesn’t have to be controlled. It can be let off the leash. It can be trusted because if it gets what it’s heart desires no one gets hurt and everyone is blessed.

Jesus isn’t interested in helping you manage your anger.

He wants to take you to a place where there is no anger left to manage.

Anger, Leadership, Parenting, Pastoring, Sermons

6 Infuriating Steps For Defeating Anger.

I was angry, but now I’m not.

When I share my story of victory over anger, people are always curious to hear how it happened.

Actually, “curious” is the wrong word, “desperate” is more accurate.

Accurate because people know anger is about to cost them the most precious things in their lives and they are desperate to avoid loss. Or, they realize they will never get those precious things only available to people who are not ticking time bombs or quietly grinding their teeth 24/7.

Desperation is appropriate. Anger needs to go, and it needs to go soon, because you only get so many chances before it costs you everything.

Fourteen years ago, I remember being absolutely livid because Tamara was taking a long time getting out to the car with our 4 month old baby. I was honking the horn, huffing and puffing so much the windows were fogging up. When they did get settled in the car I slammed it into reverse and shot out of the driveway at warp speed – right over the snowbank on the other side of the road. I swore, shot her a dirty look, and said “See what you did?”

The rest of the Sunday morning drive to church was relatively uneventful.

The insanity continued for 5 more years. Then, Tamara gave an ultimatum. I needed to stop being angry or I would lose some very precious things. I could tell she meant it and that was the day I got desperate enough to get serious about anger.

I was serious about beating anger, but didn’t know how. Now I do and I want to share it with you. So, I’ve taken my story and re-worked it here into 6 steps for removing anger from your life.

Because it doesn’t have to be ruining your life.

Listen, I know what life is like when the next five minutes are going to be dangerous because of what is welling up inside of you.

I know how it feels to ruin a weekend getaway with one angry word.

I know how it feels to be really tired of making people you love cry.

I know how it feels to see the person in front of you shrink way from you.

I know how it feels to embarrass yourself in public.

I know how it feels to be incapable of enjoying what you have because anger numbs every one of your senses.

Thank God, I also know how it feels when none of that happens anymore.

And you can too.

Come back next week for Step 1.

Leadership, Parenting

The reason you are tired.

Would you rather be a good father, mother, pastor, lawyer, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc but have everyone think you were a terrible father, mother, pastor, lawyer, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc?

Or

Would you rather be seen as being a good father, mother, pastor, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc but actually, in reality, be a terrible father, mother, pastor, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc?

Which is more important to you?

To actually be?

or

To be seen as such?

Nassim Taleb says the question is as ancient as Cicero and Machiavelli, but I can’t imagine a more relevant one.

For you, because you are tired and might not know it is because of the tremendous energy it takes to be seen certain way instead of just be.

And specifically for pastor’s, who wonder why they have ended up with a career as opposed to a ministry; a church as opposed to a niche.

Leadership

Sexy Lexy burns premium like you burn appreciation.

Last night was PAC’s 4th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet and I was drawing a blank for how to creatively offer words of appreciation.

  • Years 1 and 2, I took a bunch of real-life anecdotes and wove them into a fictional story about the journey of a new family to PAC and how their lives changed over the years thanks to our volunteers.
  • Year 3, I read letters from “Future PAC” to “2017 PAC”  to try to show how the faithful service of our volunteers leads to large-scale transformation over time.
  • Also Year 3, I belted out “Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show while the cheesecake was being handed out.

The stories and letters were appreciated – mixed reviews for the song. Thumbs down from my daughter and wife. Thumbs up from everyone else. An aspiring 70’s rock vocalist is not without honor except in his own home.

This year I decided to use the pastors of the Bible as mentors and ask:

“How would James, Peter, Paul, and John encourage their churches?”

Turns out, none of these four pastors would be on your shortlist as guest speakers to invite to your volunteer appreciation banquet. They rarely encourage their congregations about specific behaviors. There are a few places, but for every word of affirmation, there are pages of correction. Not really the sort of vibe we have at our banquet which is really more of the “no correction, all appreciation” genre.

Now, they are smart guys. They led churches. They know how important morale is and that stuff needs to get done. Why the absence of cheerleading?

My thinking is they understand sustainable ministry requires better fuel than appreciation. If you are running on appreciation you’ll find you burn through it faster than a 2000 Lexus 470 burns through premium fuel (painfully fast) and your tank will generally feel empty and your wife will wonder why we even bother keeping Sexy Lexy on the road.

This is true of volunteers. This is true of pastors.

This is why James, Paul, John, and Peter didn’t focus their attention on affirming specific behaviors and focused their encouragement elsewhere.

They coached behavior, they affirmed identity.

Some quick examples:

  • “You love because God first loved you.” – John
  • “You are a firstfruit of all creation.” – James
  • “You were rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.” – Paul
  • “Nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Paul

If you know you are a child of God, the right behaviors will simply flow because the hearts of sons and daughters are naturally poised to do the work close to the Father’s heart.  Your heart cherishes and longs for the same things as the Father and so you serve.  You don’t need cheesecake, encouraging emails, pats on the back, and renditions of “Sylvia’s Mother” to keep you going. And if you do get them – as nice and deserved as they may be – they won’t be enough to keep you going.

John, James, Peter, and Paul might not be the best examples of how to pump up the parking team with the eternal significance of their contribution to the mission but they do clarify the truth that sustainable ministry doesn’t come from consistently pumping up the troops with hype. But rather, from a rhythmic re-enforcement of exactly who the troops are in Christ.

What’s nice about this is a pastor wanting to encourage doesn’t necessarily have to be a gifted visionary or salesman and figure out how to add deep mission significance to every action or explain how personal fulfillment is connected with volunteer service. Those are helpful skills maybe, but not the ones we see on display from John, James, Peter, and Paul.

We see them focus on identity.