Dear Angry Mom
In my last post, I listed some reasons why, if you are a habitually angry mom, you must change. Today, I’d like to talk about some practical steps to make that change happen. As I see it, there are four things that have to be in place before real heart change, or biblical transformation, can happen: You must be able to recognize when you are becoming angry; you recognize unbiblical expectations; you must agree with God that your anger is sinful; and you must repent.
Recognize it early
This you know, my beloved brethren. but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. (James 1:19)
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute. (Proverbs 15:18)
First, you have to be able to recognize very early when you are becoming angry. People who are easily angered often are not self-aware, and don’t recognize sinful anger in their heart until it has already taken over their minds. Many moms don’t see minor irritations or aggravations as anger, so they brush them aside and try to keep being a “good mom.” Often, the source of these irritations is disobedience on the part of the child. For example, after asking her daughter to put her shoes on three times, a mom explodes in anger, yelling at her child and threatening to take away everything she has if she doesn’t get her shoes on RIGHT NOW!!! Did that angry outburst come out of nowhere? No, it came from this mom’s failure to enforce proper discipline, teaching her child to obey the first time she’s asked to do something. So, the first step to changing this habit is to recognize the minor irritation early, and address it right away.
Once you recognize that first spark of anger, what do you do with it? This step requires a moment of thought, but you need to figure out the heart level reason for the anger. For example, Janie has cooked a wonderful dinner, expecting that everyone will love it, and she receives nothing but complaints from her family. She feels irritated that her family doesn’t appreciate all the hard work, and she’s hurt that they don’t like it. Two things come into play here: Motive and expectations.
As this mom begins to feel irritated, she needs to ask herself: What is the reason I made this meal? Was it to receive compliments and adoration? Or was it because it is my biblical responsibility to prepare food for my family? If it is the latter, then Janie will be content, because she has succeeded in what she set out to do. If it is the former, she will be angry because her motive was unbiblical. The same goes for expectations: If she expects approval only from God, then she will be content:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
If Janie expects approval and praise from her family, she will be hurt. Expectations are vital in learning to control anger, because the Lord has told us that we are to do everything as unto Him (Col 3:23). If she made the meal in an effort to fulfill the calling of the Lord on her life, then Janie will be content regardless of her family’s response.
The next step to practice is confession. Once you have examined yourself and determined that your anger is indeed sinful, you must confess. If you’ve only become angry in your heart, and you did not sin outwardly, then it is ok to confess it only to God.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Tell Him that you were angry; that your motives were sinful, and your hurt feelings are selfish. He has already forgiven you of all of your sins before you were even born! You can have complete confidence that includes this one. You’ll know you have truly repented when you come away from your confession with no anger toward the person to whom it had been directed. If there is still sinful anger there, then you have not fully agreed with God about your sin. Continue in prayer until your heart is no longer holding anything against the other person. If the anger persists, then you may need to confess it to the person or people involved. Of course, if you sin outwardly in your anger, you must confess it to the other person, and ask their forgiveness.
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
The third element of heart change in this matter of anger is repentance. Repentance involves a change of heart and mind about the sin you are battling, but it is not just an inward change. It must be reflected in your words and actions.
A truly repentant person, while she will never be completely without sin in this life, continually puts to death the sinful habit she is trying to kill. She is diligent to search her heart and mind regularly to see if the sin is still hidden there, and if it is, to bring it out into the light.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
There is hope!
If you are an angry mom, then you have become characterized by angry outbursts and sinfully angry thinking. Your job now is to recognize it when it crops up; confess it to God and anyone else it has affected, and put it to death. Confession and repentance must become as habitual as the sin has been. Over time, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, you and others will see a change.