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Taming our Hot Temper
Temper takes many forms. The form of temper we now adopt as adults depends very much on what was successfully applied on us as children. For example, if the significant adults had used temper to control us successfully, we now use temper to try to control others. Since we had focused on the injustice of the temper so much, we unconsciously imbibe the very behavior we hated.
Temper can be obvious or it can be subtle. Temper manifests itself in some of the following ways:
a) explosion----we rage, we use anger to lash out at others and intimidate them.
b) implosion----we give the silent treatment, we sulk, we turn it inward and beat ourselves up.
c) irritation---we have little tolerance, we are out of control.
d) repetition---we nag constantly, we are stuck in the same angry groove.
It is best to avoid all forms of anger because if we give anger an inch, it will take a mile. So don’t let anger get a foothold in our hearts. For once anger gets into our hearts, it is hard to uproot. And if we let the sun go down on our anger, our hearts will harden into resentment and bitterness.
We are the only one who can make ourselves angry. We choose how we respond to the event that upset us. The meaning we give to the event will determine whether we become angry or not. What we tell ourselves makes us angry. How? By telling ourselves that we have been taken undue advantage of, that we have been unfairly treated, abused, bullied, humiliated, browbeaten, intimidated, coerced or mercilessly whacked for minor mistakes or by recounting to ourselves all the perceived wrongs that have been done to us in the past. It is vital that we watch our thoughts as we can temporarily stop our anger when we change our thoughts or change what we tell ourselves. Yet, why do we often become more and more angry? Because we refuse to change our angry thoughts or we choose to churn over and over in our minds what we keep telling ourselves. And what we tell ourselves keep us locked in our anger prison.
Often, we become angry because we don’t get our ways. We have not learnt the art of allowing, tolerating, accommodating and accepting differences in views, values, mannerisms and perspectives.
Sometimes we become angry because current word or event triggers off some childhood abuse, fear or anxiety.
But, the ultimate objective of all forms of anger is to try to control the behavior of the other person. We use anger to intimidate, manipulate and subdue the other person.
Anger becomes most dangerous when it hardens our hearts and makes us so self-righteous that we cannot see our fault. What we cannot see, in ourselves, we cannot change. When we refuse to apologize for our anger we imprison ourselves in our own self-righteousness. We stand on our pride. We harden our heart. But when we start to say “I am sorry,” we begin to unburden our heart and release ourselves from our own imprisonment. Somehow the chain is removed. The shackle is broken. Sure some will take advantage of our apology but the heavy burden of being locked up in our own anger is lightened. Apology unlocks our heart for the reconciliation to begin.
Easy to talk, but, how do we tame our hot temper? I believe in Jesus Christ so I go to Him for help. You may like to research into your respective religious faith in Bahai, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jains, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, etc, for help.
1) Admit that we are in trouble
If people can easily trigger us into temper, sulking, impatience, or nagging then we have to admit that “I am out of control with my temper.” When we use temper so readily it becomes a form of emotional abuse. It also means that we are unable to discipline ourselves. We have lost self-control. We have not learnt to separate the important from the little things. We have not learnt to let the small stuff go.
Yes, we can find thousands of reasons why we are so easily provoked into uncontrollable anger and hold on to the anger right into the night. But, unless we recognize and admit that we have trouble with our hot temper, we will never start to tame our temper. As St James has advised, “Are any among you in trouble? They should pray.” (James 5:13 TEV)
2) Pray and Ask Jesus (or your God) for help
When we pray to God, we will hear that “He speaks to us in our affliction” (Job 36:15 NIV), provided we be still and quietly listen. Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7 NJB) and often, “It is because you do not pray that you do not receive; when you do pray and do not receive, it is because you prayed wrongly, wanting to indulge your passions.” (James 4:2-3 NJB) Therefore, pray to God to repent and to motivate us to restrain our temper. We will succeed and we will fail also. But, we tame our temper one incident at a time. We are always tempted to give up trying as restraining our temper can take a very long time to succeed. But when we turn to Jesus and look to Jesus as our Helper, We will get the Holy Spirit as the Helper, Counselor and Comforter to come to our aid to control our temper.
As an example of how the Holy Spirit helps us: Normally, we use the standard mantra to help ourselves to change. We are still in charge of ourselves and we say,
I am patient
I am not fearful
I am not depressed
I can control my temper
But subconsciously we know that we are not what we say we are. So we sabotage ourselves and we find that we do not change.
However, if we say:
The Holy Spirit in me makes me patient
The Holy Spirit in me makes me brave
The Holy Spirit in me uplifts me
The Holy Spirit in me helps me control my temper
Our part here is that we trust Jesus and depend on His faithfulness to be our Helper to control our temper. We believe that He is in charge of us. We know that Jesus has the ability and the willingness to be our Helper, when we look to Him. Only Jesus can bring forth the life of Jesus in us and through us. As we acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit, our mind can accept that we will be changed. The glory goes to the Holy Spirit and slowly we will see ourselves transformed. In time the life of Christ is produced in us and we are conformed to Him.
Jesus also teaches that we “need to pray continually and never lose heart” (Luke 18:1 NJB). Prayer is the magical aid when we feel like giving up. Daily prayer will sustain, strengthen and encourage us not to give up.
Furthermore, we must admit that, often, our hot temper arises from nothing more than our resentment. Where there is resentment, there is a hardening of the heart and there is no forgiveness in our hearts. But, we must not forget that, “if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” (Matthew 6:15 TEV) So it is very important for us to repent and ask Jesus to help us to forgive. A forgiven person forgives, so it is vital that we learn to forgive ourselves also.
One practical way of forgiving is to pray for the one who hurts us, who causes us pain, or even harm. Jesus advises us to, ”pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28 TEV) and “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NJB).
3) Stop before the temper gets ugly
Anger is a choice. It is a choice to stop a disagreement before it gets ugly. It is a choice to stop and pray because we can sense the anger starting to boil inside and that our hearts are beginning to harden. If we want to control our anger, we should, “be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to human anger” (James 1:19 NJB).
The earlier we agree, the easier it is to stop the quarrel and the anger from developing. As Solomon says, “The start of an argument is like the first break in a dam; stop it before it goes any further.” (Proverb 17:14 TEV), “Any fool can start arguments;” (Proverb 20:3 TEV) and “The fool blurts out every angry feeling, but the wise subdues and restrains them.” (Proverb 29:11 NJB) Jesus advises us “Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him” (Matthew 5:25 NJB).
4) Seek Counseling
If we still find that we unable to tame our temper, it may be time to consider seeking, confessing or asking mature Christians or our priests to counsel us. Why do we need our priests to get involved at this time? Because what we have been doing is not working and we need some outside help. What is needed is the objective counsel of a third party who will minister the Word of God. We need mature guides to show us the way.
The Bible tells us, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall” (Proverb 11:14 NKJV), “Get good advice and you will succeed” (Proverb 20:18 TEV) and “Get all the advice you can, and you will succeed; without it you will fail.” (Proverb 15:22 TEV) So, in order to succeed in taming our temper, we may need the counsel of mature Christians, our priests or appropriate religious writings.
5) Pray to Jesus again and again
To have some success, we have to go to Jesus again and again for help. Sincerely repent our sins of anger. Pray to Jesus to soften our hearts. Daily, pray for forgiveness as we learn to forgive others---“’Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ answered Jesus, ‘but seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22 TEV)---and choose to take active steps “never let the sun set on our anger or else we will give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:27 NJB)
We want the best for people when we pray for them. When we truly pray for the grace to forgive people, we will slowly discover that we can no longer remain angry with them. It is most difficult to be angry with an individual and at the same time continue to lift him up in the presence of God. Jesus promises, “And if you have faith, everything you ask for in prayer you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22 NJB)
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