By Barb Arland-Fye
We published a letter from a woman admitting she had been to the confessional several times in recent months for making comments that were less than charitable.
The sins of commission had to do with presidential politics, but I was struck by her candor and humility.
Anger is the emotion that causes most of my sins of commission. My 14-year-old son Patrick can attest to that fact. The two of us have, on occasion, raised the decibel level in our house to unsafe levels in our “debates” over one issue or another. Usually the subject is picking up after oneself, homework, practicing the bass clarinet or video game time limits.
I always regret giving in to anger. I’m the grownup after all; I’m supposed to be modeling self-control and positive, adult behavior. I ask God each day to guide me to be a better role model to both of my sons, but God expects me to do my part by actually changing my behavior. Sometimes, I succeed, and sometimes I slip into old habits. There must be some physical release or satisfaction I get from raising my voice.
Often Patrick will approach me an hour or so after a “disagreement” and tell me he loves me. We hug and make up. But I wonder whether he’s begun to think he’ll lose my love. Maybe that angst is God’s way of guiding me to put the brakes on my anger.
Patrick has made terrific strides in curbing his anger, especially with schoolmates, teachers, other adults and even his older brother, Colin, whose autism sometimes manifests itself in frightening fury.
In the not-so-distant past, Patrick would have argued with me nonstop. But now, he’ll usually listen to me in respectful silence, even if his body language tells me he doesn’t agree with what I am lecturing him about.
This past school year represented a victory in anger management. He took to heart a question a teacher once asked him: “Is this worth a referral (to the principal’s office)?”
He told me he’s asked that question many times when making a decision, and it has kept him out of trouble.
A Sister of Humility offered the same sort of advice to me six or seven years ago when I asked her how she dealt with difficult people or challenges.
She said, “You have to decide, ‘Is this a ditch I’m willing to die in?’”
Most often, it’s not a ditch I’m willing to die in.
That’s a question I need to call to mind more often in navigating these teenage years.
And if I’m successful, I won’t be asking forgiveness for the same sins in the confessional.