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.
Good words, Matt. I think it is important for parents to learn the distinction between being angry at their kids, in contrast to being angry at their behavior. The mother was angry AT her child, but it sounds like you were angry at your child's actions. Z's behavior was certainly not delightful to you (kids sense hypocrisy), nor would a parent want their child acting in such a manner for a teacher or someone else. It is a fine line that gets blurred all the time...but on the other hand, nothing teaches forgiveness as well as a parent apologizing to their child for inappropriate behavior when necessary!ReplyDelete
God is good, and so is being a parent. Sorry for the long wind, but more and more I worry that parents have abdicated actually being parents and simply serve to soak their kids in Purell and to keep our kids from dying...this topic has been on my mind for several months now. Thanks for your thoughtful treatment.
Your thoughts on anger in ministry leadership - so right onReplyDelete
My first response to this was "Geez, Matt, based on your last two posts, I'd say it's time get get outta Vancouver!"
Thinking about it a bit more, I realize that this sort of thing is all around us and mostly unseen.
I'm convicted to figure out how advancing God's Kingdom can address these kinds of issues. In the end, I'm confident that Jesus & His Kingdom Ways are the only answer.