My husband loves me. That’s why he hates my besetting sin of anger. He knows, as do I, that while I may not choose to feel anger as often as I do, and while my Cerebral Palsy makes it really difficult for me to compose my physical responses when I feel irritated or angry, what I do with my anger is very much up to me. If I fly into a rage, bullying people with verbal abuse, threats and belaboring my arguments long after they’ve apologized, I’m sinning. If I refuse to forgive, browbeating someone over a real or perceived offense, I’m sinning. Yes, sarcasm, name-calling and character assassination all constitute sin too. Sulking? Check! Whining and self-pity? Undeniably! Yelling? Oh please!
And I’ve used all these tactics, in various combinations and degrees of intensity, since I was a small child. Not because of childhood trauma (as one pastor once suggested), but because it generally worked! Early in life, I apparently discovered that temper tantrums controlled people around me, so that they eventually caved in to whatever demands I had at the time.
Although I became a Christian at age 17, it’s only been in the last 18 years that I’ve acknowledged my anger as a sinful attitude. I’m still learning to control it rather than trying to use it to control people, and my progress has been embarrassingly slow.
But 18 years ago, I took the first step by recognizing that anger is not “who I am.” Yes, I’m Irish, and come from a family that yells, pouts and punishes with anger. At times, I used that heritage to excuse my sin of anger, claiming, “I’m an O’Conner.” Additionally, I internalized an observation that a friend of mine once made. He said, “It seems like those of us with Cerebral Palsy have explosive tempers.” (Looking back, a few of us in the school for disabled kids indeed had volatile tempers, but others did not. I suspect my friend made his comment to rationalize his own outbursts.) As I aged, I saw myself as inevitably given to fits of anger because I was an O’Conner with Cerebral Palsy!
But God sees my angry outbursts as sinful behavior, and He takes neither my Irish heritage nor my disability into account. Jesus indeed paid the penalty for my anger when He hung on the cross, but He also gave me victory over it when He rose from the dead. When I He mercifully brought me to salvation as a high school student, He gave me His Holy Spirit—the Spirit who expresses Himself by (among other things) giving me self-control. I’ve been slow to appropriate that self-control, granted. All I can say about that spiritual retardation is: Praise God for His mercy!
My husband reminds me of Jesus. Like Jesus, he hates my sin of anger. In fact, it fills him with righteous anger! He sees my anger quench God’s Spirit in me, distorting me from someone who reflects His values and seeks His honor into a self-absorbed tyrant. It keeps me from being the woman God desires me to be. In short, my husband, like Jesus, hates my anger because he loves me!