You are having a great week. You haven’t lost your temper even once and are very happy at the self-control that you have exercised - very much in keeping with what God has asked of you (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Then, your wife comes along and, without any reason, accuses you of having an affair with the next door neighbor. She refuses to stop badgering you and you find yourself getting angrier by the second. This is what you do:
- You yell at your wife to shut up (perhaps slapping her for additional emphasis); then blame her for provoking you into getting angry.
- You leave the house, and go for a long drive giving her - and you! - time to cool off.
- You try to stay calm and refuse to get provoked no matter what she does.
- You decide that since you are being accused of having an affair, you might as well go out and have one.
The situation speaks of an unfounded accusation made by an unreasonable wife, but you can substitute the reason with any other (such as intense nagging about a refusal to lend a hand with the chores, not taking the family out on vacation, or a hundred other things) and still respond with anger.
Many people believe it is okay to get angry, and even resort to violence, if provoked beyond reason. If you subscribe to this theory, please understand that you will never be able to respond in any way other than with anger. Option (a) becomes the automatic choice you exercise and you can forget all about developing the self-control you wanted to develop!
The only way you will even be able to rein in your temper is if you believe that it is possible to keep your anger under control, and then determinedly try your best to do so. This is not going to be easy (I should know; I used to have a hair trigger temper), but it is possible (I haven't got more than mildy irritated in nearly a year!).
Here are a few things to keep in mind. Some are practical pieces of advice; some are merely to egg you on to trying harder! They all worked for me.
- There is an enemy out there - a defeated enemy at that - who doesn't want you to do anything God wants you to do. Do you really want him to get the better of you?
- The same enemy knows how you react to certain situations. He knows which buttons he needs to press to make you blow your top. Change the way you react when the buttons are pressed. He gets confused. [See: Box]
- Remember that love (love is patient; it is not easily angered: cf 1 Cor. 13:4-5) doesn't depend on the actions of somebody else. So if you decide to love somebody, you have to do so regardless of what that person does.
- Do you claim to be full of the Holy Spirit? Self control is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. If you don't have self-control, you cannot claim to be full of the Spirit.
- Pray! While all the above helped me gain control over my temper, what really got me victory was time spent with God in prayer. The same goes for just about everything else, actually.
Until such time that you do learn to control your temper, option (b) is something that you could possibly exercise. There is a couple somewhere in the Chicago area who exercised this option to great success, recently celebrating 50 years of married life. They used to go out for a drive everytime they found themselves getting angry with each other. I believe they spent more time in the car than in the house!
Option (d) might seem like it was added there for a joke, but I've actually heard somebody justify his affair by saying he was accused into starting it!