As I was leaving for a four-day trip with my teen daughter and her friend, my husband, Steve, agreed to have the house in good shape when I returned, because we’d be having company on the weekend.
The trip with the girls was fun, but by the time I got home, my nerves were stretched, and I was ready for a break. As I walked into our kitchen, I struggled to process the sight and the odor. There was a stack of unwashed dishes, fish guts in the sink and the floor was sticky with some sort of marine-life slime.
Steve walked into the room. “You’re back earlier than I expected. I went fishing this morning and thought I’d have time to clean up before you got home. Then the mower needed some work, and I reckon I got sidetracked.”
Steve and I have been married for 38 years, and although I can’t say I respond correctly each time I’m angry, that particular day I chose to face the reason for my anger — my expectations had not been met.
James 4:1-2 reads, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” It’s a pretty simple explanation.
I asked Steve to give me some space — alone — instead of giving him an immediate verbal lashing, and put on latex gloves to start the restoration process. While cleaning, I did a few things that helped me deal with my anger before the razor-sharp words finished forming on my tongue.
First, I avoided talking to myself about the situation. I have a friend who says that when she gets angry with her husband, she takes a walk and talks to herself about it. While that may work for her, it doesn’t work for me. The one time I tried the “walk and talk” idea, all I did was practice throwing verbal spears at Steve.
Then, instead of ranting to myself about Steve’s fish-gut gaffe, I talked to God about it. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I’ve learned that when I humble myself before God and respectfully talk to Him about a matter, He really does give me grace. It’s a grace that prevents a small gust of anger from turning into a destructive tornado of emotion.
After I talked to God, I was better prepared to talk to my husband. Talking humbly, yet frankly with God about my anger, seemed to put me in a more civil state of mind. As a result, I was able to respectfully and candidly talk to Steve.
By recognizing that not getting what I wanted was the true source of my anger, I created an environment in my marriage that allowed Steve to apologize without the fear of getting lambasted — and I was in a better place to accept his apology.
Annie Chapman is a musician, speaker and author of several books, including Letting Go of Anger.