Set a guard over my lips

It’s so gratifying to be angry sometimes, isn’t it?

To revel in righteous indignation at someone’s wrong against us, large or small, perceived or actual. To call someone a thesaurus’ worth of delicious names, detailing all the ways in which they are neurotic, insufferable, vile, brutish, and just plain daft. And to assure ourselves that we would never do anything so heinous as they have done to us.

Yes, I know–“man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God requires.” But to indulge in a little wrath now and then can be such fun.

In my experience

I have had opportunities to be angry at people over the last few months—rude co-workers, weak and careless people, and people who have unjustifiably hurt those close to me. But despite my reluctance to admit it, these offenses have been relatively minor. I haven’t had to confront any atrocious malice directed at me. But I’ve still had enough trouble forgiving these folks for a few petty jabs, and even for irksome things that they don’t even know are bothering me.

A counterexample to follow

Tyrone comes into my office today, extending his usual cheery greeting to me. I have never managed to figure out where this cheeriness comes from. He works two jobs at the university, one in the copy center and another in security, and these keep him on campus seven days a week. And his commute is more than an hour one way. Still, I’ve never heard him complain, just laugh and express a rare exuberance for life.

Today he tells me that he was driving home last night, and something that had happened that day finally filtered down and ignited an intense anger. One of the nuns at the university–he was gracious enough not to tell me which one–had the audacity to call a higher-up in the copy center and request that Tyrone be transferred elsewhere.

What a spiteful thing to do against such a jovial, good-natured person! “How dare she!” I exclaim. “Tyrone, you get along with everybody!”

“I love you, too!” he says, and laughs. “But I prayed on it and let it go.” He lost respect for her for that, he says, but he will continue to deliver and pick up her mail faithfully, just without making any conversation.

“But I’ll tell you,” he confides in me, “the devil in me wants to grab that sister’s neck and pop it with no thought or emotion.”

“I don’t blame you, Tyrone.”

“Another sister gave me this Scripture yesterday,” he says, and pulls out a strip of paper from his wallet that says, “Set a guard over my lips, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my heart.”

I read it and nod. “Amen. That’s a good thing to pray.”

“Yeah,” he says. “What that sister did was just hateful and mean.” Now his face changes, widens into a grin. “But He touched me this morning,”–here he does a little jig–“and it’s okay!”

O Lord, grant that I may respond to your touch with similar joy and forgiveness.

Have you ever had someone go out of their way to try to harm you? How did you work through that?

6 thoughts on “Set a guard over my lips

  1. 🙂 Allison’s most potent weapon is her vocabulary.

    That’s a great example of grace and even “killing with kindness”…ultimately, I’ve found anger and resentment is exhausting. I’m more free to let it pass over me.

  2. It’s funny . . . I think half the reason I hate when people do “really bad stuff” is because it takes so much emotional energy to learn how to love those people who hurt you and set appropriate boundaries at the same time. It is so hard to do both of those things well. It is easy (at least for a while) to be irresponsibly angry and not forgive. And it is hard to acquire the wisdom to set good boundaries. Maybe half of growing up into the full stature of Christ is learning how to do those things together.

  3. Yes, I think you’re absolutely right, Seretha. We tend to swing between the extremes of feeling relentlessly furious or feeling hurt, guilty, and unable to fight back at all. Thanks for your comment.

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