A day has come that I (Amy) didn’t even think was possible. A day when some of my friends don’t know about my temper. I’m used to being the person my friends joke about, saying, “Just back away slowly from the Amy and throw chocolate to appease her.” I suddenly and recently realized I’m not famous to all who meet me as someone who explodes without a moment’s notice; this is, to say the least, more than a little shocking, personally. “If anyone ever makes you mad, you need to be careful, child. You are English, Irish, and German. Means you have a crazy temper and you’re stubborn about it, too!” My mother gave me this warning often when I was growing up. An Irish temper and German stubbornness would become my legacy and punchline.
I have worked hard over the years to control my temper. I was very much aware of its presence and potential for damage. The times I had thrown objects in the heat of the moment, or worse, the times I had thrown awful words at other people are memories that have never gone away. So, I worked to identify triggers, learned to recognize the signs that I was losing control, and developed methods of response to control my actions and speech. Despite all these efforts, I believe I will probably still be dealing with my temper until the end of my days here on earth. But due to the evidence that some of the closest people in my life (that I’ve met in recent years) have no idea that I struggle with controlling my temper would indicate that, at least to some degree, I have managed to control these urges.
Well, yay! Let’s buy a cake and have a party! Right?
Unfortunately wrong. Those same close people now know about my struggle. One found out because, after this individual had unknowingly provoked me, I managed to calm down and explain it; but the other found out because they provoked me too far, and I exploded. Both people were surprised by my reactions. What I had always known was lurking inside me had now come out of hiding once again.
I think because I know what’s going through my head all the time, I forget that others can’t see it as plain as the nose on my face. Each one of us is struggling with something. Some struggles just happen to be more visible than others. I know of a preacher who would regularly say, “You’re either in the middle of a storm, coming out of one, or headed into one.” But our storms are not always seen by others.
Recently, I have been trying to work through some of the deeper issues hiding in my heart, and right now, this one manifests itself as anger, like a sniffle or cough is just a symptom of a chest cold. What is the root that grows into anger and impatience, I’m still digging to find out. But the issue had been there so long and the symptom became such a regular part of life that I knew how to deal; I was thusly surprised when others didn’t realize that anger was even a problem in me.
(By the way, If ever you want to be stretched beyond your imagination yet don’t want to pray for patience, pray for God to shine His light in the dark corners of your heart, on those issues that have been there so long that they have become part of the normal.Then hold on tight, cause that journey will not be a smooth one.)
The moral of the story (so far) is this: Trust those who are close to you to know your struggles and your storms. When I finally confessed to the one friend I mentioned above about why I had been ignoring her texts, she was extremely apologetic. Naturally, she had no idea that’s what was going on with me. I did not wish to assign blame; I know what I need to work through but she can’t be held responsible to already know what I’ve managed to keep hidden.
Bonus moral: Knowing the problem isn’t the end of the battle. I still have to work to control my temper. Now I have a new challenge: I need to be able to convey with love and respect to others when it’s not a good time, when I need to be left alone, and when I need to cool down. And not to force that knowledge of my struggles on every person that comes along. Not everyone needs to or wants to know that much personal information; and sadly, not every person can be trusted to know all the depths of my (or your) heart.
“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28 (NLT) Just a side note, Proverbs has a lot to say on the matter of one holding one’s tongue.