Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Matthew 7: 5
Children can be very sinful. They can be selfish, disobedient, disrespectful, quarrelsome, grumpy, lazy, whiny. As my father-in-law likes to say, “Cute little unregenerate sinners, aren’t they?” And my job, as a mother, is to correct and discipline, disciple and train, until some day, by the Lord’s grace, they manage to behave like civilized adults. It’s like constantly taking specks of dirt out of their eyes, clearing away the thing that’s hurting them, that keeps them focused inward, and freeing my children to stop the tears that blur their view of life around them, so they can learn to respond wisely, and hopefully, some day work at changing their own corner of our messed-up world.
I have a problem, though. Just as I’m coming over to get that bit of dirt from my child’s eye, WHACK! I bash them in the head with that stupid beam I have sticking out of my own eye, that beam that keeps me from getting close enough to reach my child, that beam that won’t let me see anything, let alone the best way to help get the speck out. What am I talking about?
My children’s sin irritates me, and I get mad. Let’s say my dear daughter and son are bickering over a toy they both want. I haven’t been doing a careful enough job of keeping them close to me and watching them, so let’s say I don’t catch it at first. Lost in my own thoughts, floating along in my daydreams, I’m a hundred miles away, planning meaningful and challenging homeschool projects, or trying to mentally compose a sweet e-mail that I hope to be typing out at computer time later, or maybe I’m…
“Aaaah!!! NO! That’s MINE!”
The first thing I feel is startled, then frustrated. I’ve been disturbed. There are unpleasant noises in my haven. The children are still yelling, and now I feel angry.
“Alright, you two,” I yell in exasperation, “STOP YELLING, NOW!!!”
The Bible is pretty clear about anger. It’s sin. We’re supposed to get rid of it, not indulge in it. And it doesn’t matter if Johnny did just run away with Suzy’s toy for the ninth time today, or if Suzy’s now screaming at Johnny and ruining Mommy’s peace and tranquility. Anger is still sin.
Psalm 37:8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
Proverbs 21:24 Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath
Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
Colossians 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
James 1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Anger is terrible because it drives people away. It frightens our children. It makes them instantly defensive. A child who needs to be lovingly corrected and made to see his sin, even punished for his sin, is not going to respond well if he’s being sinned against in the process. He won’t feel our love or believe in our motives for correcting him. He may leap to action, startled and scared, but in the end his heart will be harder, not more tender. He’ll feel bitterness and rebellion, and want to get away from us because the relationship has been broken. Getting angry at children is really just emotional bullying. They have to do what we say because we’re big and bad, unstable and dangerous. In the process, we lose their hearts.
We also infect our children with our own angry disease. Anger is like a virus. It grows and grows, making copies of itself until the cell it infected explodes, spewing the deadly perversion all over neighboring cells until they, too, are left ruined and tattered, while the disease continues to spread. Consider these verses, which are especially convicting to me as a mother because I want a peaceful, happy home.
Pro 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Proverbs 22:24-25 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 29:22 An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.
When I’m an angry, grumpy mommy, guess what happens? I stir up strife. My children learn my ways. My anger begets more anger. I hear my children yelling at each other, but they’re quoting me! Yikes! By my own bad attempts at dealing with the sin in my house, I’ve actually increased the net amount of sin. How’s that for failure?
But, you might ask, what about “righteous” anger? Well, personally, I can’t see from Scripture that anyone is truly capable of righteous anger except God. (Dr. S. M. Davis has an excellent sermon about this that you can get here.) But let’s assume for a moment that righteous anger is possible for humans. If I’m really honest with myself, I’ll have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced it, certainly not when I’m yelling at my children because they disturbed my peace, or messed up my plans, or broke my priceless keepsake. When I’m angry at my children, it’s usually because I’m being selfish. If I’m genuinely grieved over their sin, if I truly want to help them, I do it calmly. I may have to discipline them over and over. I may have to explain, and correct, and memorize verses with them, and pray for them, and then discipline some more, but I do it cheerfully. There’s no emotional manipulation, no whining about whyyyyy my child has done this agaaaaaain, no irritation, and no yelling.
If I really want to help my children, my goal will be changing their hearts not just changing their behavior so it doesn’t irritate me. And their hearts will never be open to me if I’m busily terrifying my children with my own sin. To get those dirty sin specks out of my children’s eyes, I’ve got to get to get the beam of anger out of my own.