Thursday, December 13, 2007

november: backspace, delete

Another man, well known to us, had pistol-whipped him, forced him to his knees and held a gun to his head. The dispute had to do with stolen property and was, as one might expect, entirely out of proportion to the value of the properly.

In the November chapter of Today at the Mission, we read about a series of disparate events that occur at this homeless shelter that could be anywhere or every where. But in these events, we see a common thread: responses that are entirely out of proportion.

Sometimes it takes the shape of physical threats or verbal abuse by the Mission residents. We even see cases where our author, [rhymes with kerouac], becomes angry and personally offended for a slight offense, like when a friend of his eats a grape off a tray before it was formally served.

I can relate to these out-of-proportion responses. While normally I am “cool, calm and collected”, such outbursts are not that uncommon—and usually involve someone close to me. Upon reflection I’ve come to realize that my anger often does not relate to the initial incident, per se, but rather to the offending party’s inadequate response to my being hurt.

Like when my laptop got zapped with a virus because my son downloaded some infected software. I was upset that my computed wasn’t working – but I got really angry when his response was a simple shrug. I ended up yelling at him about the computer, when in fact the pain I was feeling was a lack of respect.

I don’t think I am alone in this. I can tell because the Bible talks about this topic over and over again. I find that when we humans are slow on the uptake of something very important, God has no problem being repetitive. It starts in the OT, including Proverbs 14:29, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”

The LORD himself is described this way nearly a dozen times: slow to anger, rich in love. And in James 1, 19-20 we get:
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
Got it yet? Me neither.

That’s one of the reasons I prefer writing as compared to verbal communication. I have those backspace and delete buttons that give God a fighting chance. Others are a bit better at this than me, as [rwk] relays:

When someone stops listening they lose the ability to think rationally, and it’s only a matter of time until they are evicted from the Mission. Here’s the thing: I’ve seen staff walk away from a confrontation – even though they have a legitimate concern over the resident’s behavior – because they know the outcome will be eviction.

Slow to anger... rich in love... very cool.


Anonymous said...

good post. i would like to delete some of the things i have said in anger. anger, is so hard, in certain situations it is so hard to know what to do with it. but, i think that like you said...writing out one's thoughts is not a bad idea.

as i write this, i am waiting for my 20 year old daughter to drive home through the dark for 4 hours from school. i will breathe easier when she arrives. tomorrow we have plans to go on a family trip.

Pat said...

There is a feeling that rises up in me and when it does, I know I'm not where God would have me. sometimes I can control it, other times I say whay I'm thinking--not a good idea.

Have you thought about the scripture that says we are dead and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Dead folks don't get offended--probably not angry either, but I've only related this to the offence thing. When I feel offended it helps me to remember that scripture and let the Lord deal with me. Most of the time He's able to do it quite quickly.

Give it a try.