“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27
Living in grace frees me from all expectations. Learning about grace has freed me from trying to control my kids. Instead of saying, “don’t do that,” or “don’t act like that,” I have conversations with them.
In fact, I’m learning to understand grace just by trying to teach my kids how to live an awesome life!
Handling anger is a great example. Sometimes kids get angry when their parents ask them to do something they don’t want to do, or when they don’t get their way. It happens — they’re kids! When one of my sons gets angry, I don’t get mad at him. I don’t tell him, “Hey, you shouldn’t be angry.” Instead, I acknowledge that he’s angry. I look at him and say, “I realize you’re angry. You know what? It’s okay to be angry.”
I can tell him this because I know that his anger is not a sin. We see this in the Bible. God gets angry with sin, Moses gets angry with sin, and Jesus gets angry with sin. Not all anger is sin! In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul quotes the Psalms: “Be angry, and do not sin.” So you can be angry. But do not sin in your anger.
Also in Ephesians, Paul tells fathers, “Do not cause your children to be angry.” He means that we shouldn’t cause our children to sin in anger.
We have to make sure our children don’t let the sun go down on their anger. In other words, we have to make sure they don’t internalize their anger until it boils over. If we tell our kids, “Don’t get angry,” or if we tell them, “You’re not allowed to get angry,” then we’ve told them that anger is not okay. If our kids know they’ll get in trouble for getting angry, then they will hide their anger. They will internalize it. Eventually, they will act out on it. They might even develop rage, or turn their anger on themselves. This isn’t healthy, and it can cause a lot of problems.
Grace allows anger. Grace says, “It’s okay to be angry. Let’s talk about it.” If I say this to my sons, then they can say, “Well Dad, I’m angry because I don’t get to do what I want.” I can accept that. I can say, “Okay. That’s okay! I understand!” Then I can explain why I asked them to do something else. And I can say, “I know it’s frustrating when you can’t do what you want. You will be angry for a little while, and that’s okay. In the meantime, you still need to do what I asked you to do.”
Accepting anger brings freedom. What if someone were to tell you that it’s okay to be angry, and then they let you talk about it? How good would that feel? Pretty good, right? Well, that’s how good your kids will feel. You will free them to express themselves, and they will feel really good.
As you can imagine, this works just as well for parents as it does for kids!
More on this next time. See you Thursday.