Sunday, August 09, 2009

Migration: The Joys of Stryofoam

This post was originally written in August of 2001... it's been revised slightly to appear here on the blog.

When I was young - well, younger - the business my dad owned shipped medical research products around the U.S. This required Styrofoam containers by the truckload (to keep products cool).

Styrofoam, among it's many other wonderful properties, makes the most satisfying "crack" when you break it. Heck, it sounds like something large just splintered under high pressure. You can't imagine how therapeutic it is to "work out" your anger by beating big sticks of Styrofoam against trash cans and brick-o-block walls and hearing a cacophony of shattering noise.

The best part? No one gets hurt when you break Styrofoam - including you! You don't have to pay to fix what you've broken, either (remind me to tell y'all sometime about putting my fist through the drywall at our first home in Nashville.)

Here's the problem - the vast majority of us work out our anger on non-Styrofoam items: dishes, papers, drywall (sigh), people... yep, people. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that most of our anger management involves trying to break & splinter other people.

Now, it's not usually a physical thing... but our words can shatter against another human being as effectively as those Styrofoam boxes. And the damage we do with our verbal beatings can leave lasting scars on the emotional landscape.

So, what do we do? Heck, what do I do? What do you do? How do we follow the teaching of the Bible and "in our anger, do not sin"? (In other words, when we're angry, don't hurt ourselves or others.)

Here's my first step - I have to start with God. Every time I'm tempted to put my fist through a stretch of drywall or blow off an lazy service employee or gesture angrily at an idiot driver, I've got to go to God. I've got to say, "Here's the reality of my anger... help me." I've got to focus on the character of God: loving, kind, truthful... rather than on the thing that made me ticked off.

It's not that I end up "OK" with the situation or person - "God magically took all my anger away and now I'm smiling like the Joker just hit me with laughing gas!" It's that I can say - "I can look beyond this situation/person and attempt to follow Christ's example... even as I fully acknowledge the anger & frustration I feel."

Easy? No. It'd be simpler to whack away at a trashcan with pieces of Styrofoam... but it would be a whole lot less likely to help us become more like Jesus.

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