Yesterday I took Z to school. She was having a hard time emotionally and was throwing that occasional crying fit that gets under my skin. And I, in return, was not being the patient, calm father I should have been. Which means we were walking to school upset with each other, with me in a hurry to drop her off so I could get to work and her walking four feet behind me and doing her best to slow us down.
As we got closer to the school I saw a woman at the end of the block grab her son by the ears and lift him from the ground. By the time we reached them she had grabbed hold of his hands and he was struggling to get away from her. Z was frightened and took hold of my hand, and we hurried past to get Z into class. We took a few moments to make friends again. I held her for a while, and then prayed for her day and I dropped her off in class.
By the time I got back out the woman was gone, but there was a discarded backpack that appeared to be the boy's.
On my way to work I called the school and described what had happened. I ended up getting multiple calls from the school counselor as they searched out the family I described. Eventually they figured out who it was from my description, and called Child Protective Services. The CPS hasn't called me for a statement yet, but I suppose they will on Monday.
As I reflected on the events of the morning, I realized that this woman was acting out of anger at her son, and that the anger was probably not qualitatively different than what I had been feeling toward Z that same morning. I didn't hurt Z, of course, and I've never hit her or physically harmed her. I'm guessing that woman would say she didn't mean to hurt her son. But this is why Jesus equates anger with murder. Anger is the seed that grows into emotional, spiritual or physical violence. It's a sin with enormous ability to destroy or harm those around us.
I remember talking to someone once who said that anger was not a good reason to remove someone from ministry. You should only remove someone from a leadership position for illicit sex or embezzling or some other (his words) "obvious" sin. That's nonsense. Consistent, destructive anger is a disqualifier from ministry. Leaving someone with an anger problem in a position of leadership will result in a ministry characterized by hurt and broken people. And ignoring that problem because an individual is effective or gets thing done is a tragic mistake.
I am thankful that I don't have an "anger problem", but I could see in myself, yesterday, a tiny seed of anger that, if nurtured, could become something nasty and destructive. I've been reflecting on it and praying about it and repenting about it. I want to be a person of peace, a selfless person who doesn't get angry when things don't go his way. I know that's impossible apart from God's help and grace. So I'm asking for that.
P.S. Please, please don't hurt your kids. I can't tell you how disturbing it was to watch this woman swing her kid around by his ears. If you have an issue with anger that you have ever taken out on your kids, you need to get someone to come help you deal with that! Send me an e-mail and I'll help you find someone who specializes in helping families like yours get healthy again.