I Got Angry At My Daughter The Other Day

By on September 28, 2012

The other day my daughter sinned.
She did wrong.
She made a mistake.
It was clear.
It was obvious.
It was objective.
I was disappointed.
I was hurt.
I responded in anger.

This is not the first time I have gotten angry at my children.

My most recurring sin pattern in our home is sinful anger.

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It works out in many different ways.

Sadly, I have never been particularly loyal to just one form of anger.

For example, I have raised my voice, been impatient, exhibited frustration, rolled my eyes, grumbled under my breath, complained to various members of my family, and openly criticized them.

Piling on

A few days ago I found out something that my daughter was doing. Rather than responding the way Christ always responds to me, I raised my voice in anger and disappointment. She did not receive redemptive care from her daddy. She received my unkind punishment.

She fully felt the disappointment in my voice. Rather than asking her questions to draw her out in order to gain her perspective, I elevated my voice and lectured her on her sin. She was in a hopeless place. I put her there. God never puts us in a hopeless place when we sin.

In that moment I disqualified myself from helping her. Her sin was swept away by my sin. She was no longer thinking about her sin. She was thinking about and focused on my sin. She was forced to think about me and my displeasure in her.

My sin trumped her sin in that moment. In football parlance, it is called “piling on.” The penalty for piling on happens when a player has been tackled, the play is over, but a player from the opposing team jumps on the pile.

In such cases there is a 15-yard penalty. The player did not have the sense or the self-control to see the situation for what it was. Rather than thinking and stopping, he piles on the pile.

Rather than recognizing the situation for what it was, I chose to bull my way through to make my points. My twisted thinking in the moment was that I could force righteousness on my daughter through manipulative fear tactics.

Though I was not thinking with that kind of distorted clarity, that is what I was attempting to do. My sanctification approach was for her to see things my way and to ensure that she would never do it her way again.

This approach did not work. She never got past my anger. Her thoughts were not on what she had done wrong, why she did wrong, or how she could have done better. She was thinking about the big person in the room who was displeased with her.

I blew a redemptive moment with my daughter. Have you ever blown a redemptive moment with a child, spouse, or friend? Can you think of a time when someone sinned against you and you sinned back? That is what I am talking about.

Disqualify yourself

Whenever a person responds sinfully to someone else’s sin, he is effectively disqualified from helping the original sinner. While it is true that sin should be punished, sinful anger has never been God’s method for punishment.

For example, when Adam sinned the Father’s choice for punishment was to provide a sacrifice for the guilty sinner. He chose to become part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.

Though the Father could have registered His complaint against Adam, He did something counter-intuitive. He did something profound. He gave us the Gospel. Rather than making justifiable demands, He mapped out a plan to redeem a bad person from a bad situation.

Christ was the Father’s method for redemption.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Some may argue that I did not disqualify myself from helping my daughter, even though I did respond sinfully to her. My objection to that argument would be for you to ask my daughter about my ability to help her in that moment.

She would disagree with you. In fact, I have asked her in times past what she thinks about when I get angry with her. Here is what she told me:

Daddy, when you get angry with me, my mind shuts down. I don’t know how to think or how I should respond. I get nervous. It makes me afraid and I cannot think.

Will you ask your child or spouse a similar question? Will you ask them how your sin to their sin affects the original problem at hand? When my children sin, I have one of two options to choose from:

  • I can choose to sin in response to their sin.
  • I can choose to apply the Gospel when they sin.

If I do the former, then I immediately disqualify myself from walking them through whatever sin issue they committed. If I choose the latter, then I am in a position to be an effective minister of reconciliation for their good, my good, and for the glory of God.

Re-qualify yourself

In the situation with my daughter, I had to neutralize my sin that I created between us. I had to do this in order to “re-qualify” myself to be a minister of reconciliation. Because of me, my daughter came into my room carrying one sin, but left under the burden of two sins.

I needed to pray to the Sin Remover so that I could get back to the business of parenting my daughter. When you sin in response to sin, the first order of business is to repent to God and to the person you sinned against.

If you don’t do this, there will be many repercussions:

  • You will have an unresolved sin issue against God.
  • You will have an unresolved sin issue against the other person.
  • You will send a message that your sin does not matter, while theirs does.
  • You will become a stumbling block to the person you sinned against.
  • You will disqualify yourself from being able to disciple the other person.
  • You could tempt the person to become bitter and angry toward you.
  • You will mock the death and resurrection of Christ, by not accessing the cleansing that He offers through humble confession (1 John 1:9).

When you sin in response to sin, but choose to repentrather than ignor your sin, then several good things can occur:

  • God’s favor is on your life because He gives grace to the humble.
  • You are modeling the very thing you want the other person to do, i.e. be humble.
  • You are not mocking the Gospel, but making it very real and practical in your life.
  • You become qualified to disciple the other person.
  • You release the other person to be as open and honest as you are.
  • You’re not compounding the problem by piling your sin onto an already sinful situation.
  • You will be fully reconciled to God and the other person.

Ironic sinning

There are times, as I have illustrated here with my daughter, where it is hard not to yield to the temptation of sinning in response to sin. Sometimes out of deep love and affection you have for someone and the godly desire you have for them, you can forget the redemptive methods of the Gospel.

When they sin…again! You lose focus, even forgetting your own temptations and struggles with on-going sin patterns in your life. What person does not have an on-going lifelong sin pattern in their life? We all do.

Isn’t it ironic that I was lecturing my daughter about how not to sin and why she should not sin, by sinning against her? I was trying to avert a sin pattern from forming in her life, by using my sin pattern to stop her.

Maybe ironic is not the best word choice here. How about sad? It is not God’s approach to sanctification.

If I had chosen not to sin in response to her sin, then I could have immediately positioned myself to help her through her challenges. Though it is hard at times not to sin in response to sin, God is clear that His grace is sufficient for such moments as this.

Powerful grace

God’s grace is sufficient for any situation regardless of what it is. People’s sins are not greater than God’s grace. Therefore, the big question to work through, if you regularly sin in response to sin, is why is God’s grace not sufficient?

When I respond to sin by sinning, I am getting caught up in the sin that is going on rather than the grace that can be appropriated through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When my daughter’s sin trumps the work of God in my life, then the Gospel is anemic in that moment.

It was important for me to talk to God about why His Gospel was ineffective when my daughter needed my redemptive care the most. I needed to spend time thinking about and appropriating His grace in my heart rather than focusing on what I was not getting from my daughter.

When I did this, I realized that my desire for my daughter was a good desire. I wanted her to love God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. However, I was not willing to do the servant work needed to help her get to that place.

I did not want to set aside my desire in order to help her. To help her required too much work. In the moment I believed my anger would expedite the process of holiness. It was as though I could get this thing done a bit faster than God.

I was trying to circumvent God’s slowness in my daughter’s life by speeding up the process through anger. Because of my sin, it took two nights to clean up two messes. If I had initially responded godly, it would have only taken one night.

More irony – The way I parented my daughter is not how sanctification works for me. God does not yell sin out of my life. It is His redemptive love that leads me to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Once my heart began to get back in-line with the Gospel, I repented of self-centeredness, laziness, unkindness, and my harsh tones (anger) toward my daughter. My God and my daughter forgave me.

Once my sin was neutralized and no longer an obstruction to what God was doing in her life, I was able to minister to her. It was only then that we had an incredibly wonderful conversation about her sin, why she sinned, where she struggles, and why she struggles.

It was redemptive! It was God’s amazing grace!

One last heart check

Because I do have an anger problem that frequents our home, I wanted to hear from my daughter about how my sin has affected her through the years. After I repented and she forgave me and after we talked quite awhile about her issues, I asked her two final questions:

  1. Do you think you have a happy dad or an angry dad?
  2. Are you more aware of my displeasure or my affection for you?

Mercifully, she said that I was a happy dad and that she was more aware of my affection for her than my displeasure in her. For this I was thankful. It brought tears to my eyes.

I do love my daughter and I hate my sin, but I know that I cannot hide my head (or my reputation) in the sand, thinking I am something when I am not. Sin affects people. Sin put Christ on the cross. No person sins “in a corner,” not affecting those around them.

I don’t know how you parent your children, live out your marriage, or how you interact with other relationships, but I would appeal to you to take some time with those you care about the most and ask them to honestly serve you through biblical feedback.

Here are some of the sample questions that we discuss in our home. They help us to keep our hearts in-line with the Gospel and each other. Remember: the Gospel releases us from anything to hide or anything to protect.

Be humbly bold. Ask the Father to give you the grace to talk like this. Here are some starter questions for your relationships:

  • When you think of me, do you first think of my love for you or my displeasure in you?
  • Which is greater in your mind, as it pertains to me: affection or correction?
  • When I say I have something to say to you, what do you think first? I’m going to encourage you or discourage you?
  • Am I generally a joy or a burden to be around?
  • If you could choose a word that best describes my affection for you, what would that word be?

 

Originally posted on Counseling Solutions.

About Rick Thomas

Rick Thomas has been training and counseling in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own Christian training organization in order to assist Christians around the world regarding a better understanding and practice of Christian discipleship. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. Later he earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with a nationally recognized counseling group. Today his organization represents clients in over 90 countries as well as all 50 states through his consulting, training, blogging, and coaching. Website: http://www.rickthomas.net/

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I Got Angry At My Daughter The Other Day