“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:17-18
We all get upset from time to time — sometimes — so much so, that it takes a great deal of self-control to refrain from retaliation, outbursts, or payback. No matter how hard we try — there are simply times when we just can’t sit idly by and say nothing.
So, how do we manage our frustrations and handle upsetting circumstances that tempt us to act out? What does God’s Word have to say about how we are to conduct ourselves when situations like these arise?
Lately, some of our nation’s leaders seem to be giving permission, — even inspiring their followers to retaliate against people they disagree with. Harassment and vandalism are being accepted by some who say the offense warrants the response. But — does this kind of behavior really make things better, does it help our nation progress or make our policies improve?
Our two boys were born two years apart, and even though they were raised the same house, by the same parents, and taught the same things, — they have completely different temperaments, personalities, and ways of handling trying circumstances and situations. One son is talkative and can argue with a wall and win. Our other son is quiet, yet quick-tempered when he’s provoked. Growing up, they clashed often. The talkative one knew how to push all the right buttons, and the quiet one would quickly reach his breaking point and would act out in frustration.
If we let our frustration and anger build up — we’re eventually going to explode — and most often, in inappropriate and unproductive ways.
When our boys were young, we talked a lot about managing our anger appropriately. We taught our one son to learn to control his tongue and our other to walk away from situations that tempted him to act out. We gave them both permission to take a timeout, to retreat to their rooms, and even beat their pillows if it helped them calm down.
Exercise, such as running, walking, or lifting weights, greatly reduces stress. Taking a timeout to spend quiet time with the Lord helps release tension and allows our minds time to settle when we’re upset.
God calls us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and he calls us to confront those who sin against us (Matthew 18:15). But, he warns us against acting out. We are to be slow to anger (Proverbs 14:29), to not sin when we’re angry (Ephesians 4:26), and he gives us clear instructions on how to handle circumstances when others offend us (Matthew 18:15-17). God encourages us to remain in control of our emotions, to live in peace, and to let him fight our battles (Deuteronomy 20:4).
“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:17-21
It takes great courage to act rather than react, to pray for wisdom and take time to prepare a proper response, — rather than letting our emotions get the best of us, and allowing our frustrations to tempt us to say and do things that disappoint God and often result in shame and regret.
How do you manage your anxiety, frustration, or anger over personal, political, or social situations that upset you?