One Father’s Day I was speaking to our church with a message geared especially to help our men be better dads. Most of the time when I am finished preaching we have a time of response where folks can make specific decisions based on what they have been taught. It’s always a quiet, serious and very tender time. This is when lives are changed.
During the time of invitation most people simply respond and kneel at the altar and pray about a specific need in their life. Occasionally someone will speak to myself or another pastor and we will pray or counsel with them.
On this morning I had mentioned the negative impact an angry father has on his children along with some other truths from the Bible about parenting. When I finished speaking we prayed together and some quiet music was playing. Several people gathered around the altar to pray. I noticed a man that had responded standing alone away from everyone else close by the wall looking down and nervously shuffling their feet.
I wear a wireless mic and so I turned it off and walked over to him and put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Hey, buddy (he was a friend of mine), can I help you?” Understand that I have done this hundreds of times as a pastor, but his answer was one I had never heard. He looked at me in the eye and with great sincerity, directness, and brokenness said, “Rick, I am an angry man”.
I asked him if he minded if I could talk to him for a few minutes after I dismissed the service. He agreed and we sat on the front row and talked for a while . That morning he became a Christian and he became a new man. Later I learned of some very deep pains, disappointments and losses in his life. The hurt was still there, but the resentment and anger was gone. In it’s place was a humble spirit, joy and a heart of love.
May I ask a personal question of the reader? Have you ever told the Lord, “I am an angry person?” It is the starting point to the healing of your past. First, you must acknowledge and admit the problem. That’s not easy to do. Our pride tells us that our anger is justified – and sometimes it may be. But it will destroy you and those around you.
God’s prescription for parenting begins with a warning against not giving cause for our children to be angered – “…fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…” (Ephesians 6:4) One of the primary ways we do this as parents is when we have a problem with anger.
Sometimes the anger isn’t aimed directly at the child, but it spills over on our kids from problems at work, in our marriage, or from difficult circumstances. It bleeds into every area of our life; I have never met anyone that could “compartmentalize” anger.
The Bible speaks about having an “angry spirit” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) and an “angry countenance” (Proverbs 25:33). Some people perpetually are angry, even at the smallest offenses, and sometimes for no cause at all. Before anger is an action; it is an attitude, a problem of the heart.
Angry people do foolish things and speak words they regret – “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…” (Proverbs 14:17) Note the words “soon angry”. This is a person that reacts quickly without thinking, but not without doing damage to the object of their anger.
Billy Sunday, the great preacher of yesteryear, was counseling with a lady after a service. She told him, “I know I have a problem with anger, but it is over with quickly”. Sunday wisely responded, “Ma’am, so is a shotgun blast, too, but it does irreparable damage”.
Angry people have frequent conflicts with people. The Bible says that “…an angry man stirreth up wrath…” (Proverbs 29:22) The words “stirreth up” have the idea of provoking or irritating. When a father has an angry spirit he creates an environment of anger wherever he goes.
God warns a man about marrying an angry woman – “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman”. (Proverbs 21:19) It’s better to be alone than to spend time with an angry person. Our children don’t have the choice to determine who their parents are and sadly have to tolerate our proneness to express displeasure to them.
When a person spends time with one that is angry over time they are influenced to be angry, too. The Bible states, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul”. (Proverbs 22:24-25) Again, children don’t select their parents and an angry parent will have a negative effect on his children as they model and unknowingly train them to be angry – just like dad.
Perhaps as you read this you realize that you have learned to be angry by watching and listening to your parents argue and hearing their outbursts of wrath toward you and your brothers and sisters. Rather than seeing yourself as a victim and excusing your behavior from your past (the Freudian psychology model wrongly teaches this), take responsibility for your actions. Until you see it as a sin you will never overcome it. For the sake of your children (and your grandchildren) deal with it so the chain can be broken.
People express their anger in different ways. When I am angry I don’t show it physically, but verbally. My words become sharp and sarcastic and I want the other person to know that I have been hurt. Such words sink deep in a child’s heart and can be remembered for a lifetime. When I’m gone one day my kids won’t remember me for temper tantrums and physical or verbal abuse. But they may remember a harsh or cutting remark I have made to them.
The thesis of this brief post is that angry parents produce angry children. A very interesting story that substantiates this from the Bible is from the life of King Saul and his son, Jonathan.
The story picks up where Jonathan is protecting his friend, David, from his father, King Saul, who is jealous and fearful that David will take his throne. When Saul realizes Jonathan’s loyalty to David he becomes furious with him for not revealing his location as he is hiding.
Note how Saul begins to berate his own son with cruel words (about him and his mother) and tries to make him jealous of David. Incredibly Saul attempts to kill his own son. Finally, notice that Saul’s anger makes his own son angry.
“Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die. And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.” (I Samuel 20:30-34)
Jonathan was a much better man than his father, but his father’s words and attempts to manipulate him discouraged him. Ultimately, it made him angry – and he responded just like his father.
I remember coaching tee-ball and a father whose son was on the team had volunteered to help out. Just one week into practice I knew the family had some trouble. I watched as this man in his mid-30’s intensely pushed his five year old son to be a top-notch athlete. The little boy performed well, but his father never praised him, constantly criticized him, and thought he was doing his son a favor.
The trouble with the family was that it was led by an angry man. I purposed to reach out to him in friendship and show him the love of Christ. He was respectful but distant and cool. Though he was never personally rude to me, he was to his son. He was just a five year old little boy just trying to learn to play a game – it was tee-ball!
Years passed and I hadn’t seen him or his family. One day I was in a grocery store waiting in line to pay and someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was this father. He still had a tight expression on his face and was all business. I asked about his wife and he told me that they were now divorced. I later learned through one of my children they he was estranged from his children.
As I write these words my heart is heavy. They are not written from a critical, self-righteous perspective. In fact, I only share them to help you and to make you think. As I got in the car I thought long and hard about this family. It really wasn’t a surprise that the family imploded. Anger will do that to a person and all that are associated with him.
I couldn’t help but wonder about this man’s family in which he was rasied. Did he have an angry father? Was he angry over something that had happened that he couldn’t reconcile with a loving God? Would his children break the chain of anger in the family?
This same pattern happens over and over in my counseling with people. Though Christ enables a person to be free from the bondage of anger and bitterness, many people feel they have a right to be angry and so they never release it. And they pay for it dearly in their relationships, especially at home.
We must not make our children angry. When Mom and Dad are angry, children see it modeled in words, responses, and facial expressions. Soon, they grow to be angry teenagers and then one day are angry parents themselves. And the cycle continues.
Let me return to the story which I opened with in this post. Remember the man that had responded to the message and told me, “Rick, I am an angry man”? A little over forty-eight hours after he had trusted Christ as his Savior we were at baseball practice together. Our sons had made the little league all-star team and I wasn’t coaching the team, but was there as a parent watching the practice.
Another friend of mine and I were leaning against the third-base fence talking about life, nothing important. Suddenly, my friend became serious and cocked his head sideways and looked at me, and said, “Hey Rick, what happened to _____________?” And he mentioned the name of this man that had just become a Christian barely two days earlier. Well, I knew what had happened to him, but I was interested in what my friend would say as he had no idea.
So I asked him, “What do you mean what happened to him? Is he different?” He said, “Yeah…he’s not mad anymore”.
I write these posts with a sincere desire to be a help and encouragement to people in their families. All of the time I have put into them would be worth everything if a Mom or Dad would deal with their anger. May your child notice the difference and think, “I wonder what happened to my Dad; he’s not mad anymore”.