“Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26) (Written in 1997)
I feel one great dilemma in dealing with anger as a parent. Here I am, not only a Christian, but also a priest, sermonizing about love and patience while facing the reality of a wife and four kids (ages 6, 10, 13, 15). I feel their expectations and those of the parish are that I be firm yet fair, supportive yet correcting, leading by example, teaching, fully upholding God’s law, righteous, forgiving, always knowing and always doing the right, but then begging forgiveness for all the wrong I actually do.
What I see in my kids’ behavior is a lot of me. I see them reflecting and parroting my attitudes, emotions and behavior. I don’t always like what I see in them. I feel frustrated and angry at their behavior, attitudes, lack of cooperation, fighting, yelling, choice of words and music. Confronted with all of this I have to deal with them with the love God has for His children, the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon.
Then my prayer life comes into play. Among the prayers which are part of my life is the prayer which reads in part:
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for laying aside all excuse, we sinners offer to You, as our Master, this supplication: Have Mercy on us!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
O Lord, have mercy on us, for in You we have put our trust. Do not be angry with us, nor remember our iniquities, but look down on us even now, as You are compassionate, and deliver us from our enemies; for Your are our God, and we are Your people; we are all the work of Your hands, and we call upon Your Name.
I look to my God and I ask for His mercy, for His patience, for His kindness. Is that not what my children also want and need from me? Do they want me to destroy them in my wrath for what they have done? No, they need my love. I need God’s love. I ask for Him to be merciful and I need to learn how to show loving mercy to my own children. My anger will teach them little, as St. James wrote: “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness” (James 1:19-20). It is from my love that they will learn.
If I can ask my Lord not to be angry with me for my faults, mistakes, intentional sins, should I then turn and show nothing but anger to my children for their mistakes and intentional disobedience? I must somehow be their father and guide to correct and instruct and discipline them, yet learn to control my own anger. For that is what I want from God and for that I pray daily. If I want forgiveness, mercy and love from God, so our Lord Jesus instructs us, we must give that same mercy, patience and kindness to others, including our children. Be angry but sin not (Ephesians 4:26). Discipline the children don’t discourage them (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21).
At every Vespers, as priest, I say this prayer:
O Lord, rebuke us not in Your anger, nor chasten us in Your wrath! But deal with us according to your leniency, O Physician and Healer of our souls. Guide us to the haven of Your will. Enlighten the eyes of our hearts to the knowledge of Your truth.
My prayer to God is something to also guide my life and behavior. If I can ask God not to rebuke me nor chasten me when He is angry with me, but rather to wait until He can guide me in His lenient mercy, should not I do the same with my own children? It is my duty to guide them to God’s will by teaching them and disciplining them in love. It is not mine to destroy them in my anger. That is purely sin.
So I continue to struggle with my own sinfulness, seeking God’s mercy for my soul, and struggling to show my family the mercy, patience and love that God has shown me.