I find the Gospel to be counterintuitive which may be a reason I am so drawn to it. I don't particularly like the reactions which come so naturally to me- revenge, lashing out, negative judging thoughts of others, being incredibly self scrutinizing. Thank God for a way around myself to the person I want to be. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I do not linger in those places I do not want to stay. I can wake up each new day hopeful that I am created in the image of a Good and Kind God. I can live in that Image myself.
Yesterday, I had this conversation with my son. Here's a little background before I begin. His adoption issues have created in him a rejection of self. He runs like his pants are on fire from pain and lashes out with whatever verbal whip he can find lying around at anyone following after him trying to catch his broken heart. He has no sense that pain can bring positive change, so he lives in a solitary world of denial and disconnected fantasy. He does not own his anger, because he's so very afraid of further rejection, especially from me his second mother. He'll clinch his fists, stomp his feet, turn red in the face, and yell, "I'm not angry!"
Me: (I sat with a present wrapped with a bow on my lap but never referred to it) So, what do you think about anger, buddy? What comes to mind?
Son: I don't like it at all. What's in the box?
Me: You'll find out later about the box. Why don't you like anger?
Son: Anger hurts other people
Me: How about you? Does it hurt you.
Me: So do you believe anger is all bad, nothing good about it?
Me: Oh, my dear one. I am so sorry. It's a mother's job to teach children all about anger, and I see that I have failed you terribly.
Son: What ARE you talking about?
Me: I must have never told you that anger is a gift from God. I'm so sorry.
Me: God created everyone with a capacity for all kinds of feelings to help us. Anger is a wonderful tool God gave to each person. It's just like a sword. How can we use a sword to hurt?
Son: (totally engaged because he's real boy who can't resist any conversation about weapons) They can cut people. Wound.
Me: Yes, anger can cut and wound when we are careless with it. How can a sword be a good tool?
Son: It can protect!
Me: Yes! I used my anger to protect you when you were a baby. Though I will always love your mother, she lived a very dangerous lifestyle, and when I heard about her jumping out a window to escape the police, I became very angry. What do you think I thought of when I heard that story?
Son: About her jumping out a window with me as a baby. I could have been killed.
Me: I couldn't let that happen, so I insisted that you be adopted to a safe home.
Is there ever a time to yell in anger?
Me: How about, "Don't run into the street! A car is coming!"?
Son: Yes, but I never do stupid stuff like that.
Me: Oh, honey. For you, yelling, "I'm angry!" might save your life.
Son: What? No way.
Me: Remember how you and I have long conversations and it takes 15 minutes for you to get to "I was angry, because you wouldn't let me go to my friend's house, so snuck your phone to text him"? What if you just yelled, "Mom, I'm angry! You never let me do anything!"?
Son: No. I shouldn't yell.
Me: You're gonna have to practice using the gift of anger even if it feels wrong. Texting without permission is manipulation, and that is a much more self destructive and dangerous than expressed anger. Telling or screaming at me, "I'm angry" instead of taking your anger out sideways would a huge leap forward from manipulation. If you have to yell it, so be it. I'm going to have to practice not flinching and allowing you to feel something you have been afraid of for a long time. In fact, when you yell, "I'm angry" you're getting hugs and cheers. I need you to practice, so we'll both be ready. You need to see my eyes looking at you and loving you in the hard times. Try it.
Before he began, I warned my other children, "Hey, guys. _____ will be yelling at me, but we're just practicing. It's all good." Laughs and hugs all around after he belted out, "I'm angry, because you won't give me poptarts!" Inside the present I had on my lap at the beginning of the talk is the word "anger" and a coupon for a trip for ice cream as soon as he is able to implement this skill for real. He's dying to know what's inside the box.
I wonder if this might sound like utter nonsense to you, but I believe it's a key to my son's heart. I wasn't joking when I said I failed him, and now we're learning how to make amends together.
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