Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Anger Management

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

-- Matthew 11:29

Comedian George Carlin once observed that an "idiot" is anyone on the highway who's driving slower than you. A "maniac," on the other hand, is anyone who passes you in traffic.

Although Carlin's commentary was definitely tongue-in-cheek, many people actually act out these same perceptions throughroad rage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines road rage as an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle, or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.

Road rage experts (yes, they do exist) say the most obvious form of this criminal offense is aggressive and excessive speeding, particularly on congested highways or in bad weather. Causes include increased congestion on the roadways, running late (too many obligations), increased levels of intra- and interpersonal stress, and the need to "save face" and overcome feelings of being disrespected by another driver. Most telling, however, is that the NHTSA also identifies chronic or pathological anger as a leading cause of this disturbing phenomenon.

Maybe that's not too surprising. After all, anger is one of mankind's earliest and strongest emotions, and played itself out within the first few chapters of the Bible in the form of the world's first murder.

We couldn't control our anger back then in quiet, agrarian settings and still can't today on our traffic-snarled highways. But Christ-followers are still to live to much higher standards. In fact,gentleness is one flavor of the Fruit of the Spirit that proves God is living through us. With this in mind, note that gentleness isn't just another word for wimpiness. Jesus was gentle--but He was hardly a wimp. Instead, biblical gentleness is the transformation of our innate anger into the power to do God's will in the world. Gentleness is therefore power focused on the positive.

If you're a Christ-follower who's still a bit of a road warrior, take heart. The transformation from our old self into a new creation is a work in progress that's on God's timetable. It's a change that takes place bit by bit and day after day along that faith journey we hear so much about. But the problem is that the journey's pathway is narrow, twisting and full of unexpected hairpin curves. And when we don't keep our eyes on the final Destination, we tend to end up in the ditch.

Jesus even told His disciples to expect discouraging bumps and potholes in the road. "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come," Christ explained. "But woe to that person through whom they come."

Road rage is more than a's a sin. But the good news is that we're free from sin's power and don't have to accept its dominance in our lives. It comes down to our ultimate trust and dependence on Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. So when we slip up and give in to temptation and bad habits on the highway--or thousands of other places--we can freely ask for help from the One who has already paid the ultimate price for all our mistakes: past, present and future.

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