“Ugh.” I thought. “How can people live like that?”
My sneer said it all. I had stumbled across a television show that chronicled the lives of hoarders, and what I saw disgusted me. People consumed by stuff. Decades worth of junk piled up in the house. One man’s bed literally consisted of a pile of trash. His blanket? A flattened cardboard box.
I turned off the program with a great sense of self-satisfaction. At least my home wasn’t taken over by knick-knacks and empty milk cartons. My life was in order. I was quite proud of myself until God spoke in His still, small voice.
He reminded me that I’m a hoarder, too.
A tour of my home will tell you I’m not a hoarder of things, but one look at my heart reveals a disheveled mess. My soul hoards anger. I remember fights, unkind comments, snarky looks, or exclusions at parties. Much of it is stuffed down deep inside, buried far enough so it doesn’t hurt me daily, but within close reach when a painful memory is triggered. When that happens, out come that bags, each containing various ammunition. There lies harsh words, other’s past mistakes, or sarcastic comebacks I was too flustered to say initially.
God sifted through my heart’s trash and revealed I’m no different than the people I observed on the hoarding show. One participant reluctantly took the advice of his daughter and a psychologist and began to clean up his apartment. He even decided to throw out an old chair he had onto held for years. This glimmer of hope was short-lived. Later that night after everyone left, he went out back to the dumpster, grabbed the chair, and brought it back inside. He couldn’t let it go, and the price he paid was great. It cost him his health, home, and his relationships.
As God reminded me, I am just like that man. I may get rid of my anger for a time, but eventually I drag it back. It’s the garbage that’s piled up around me for so long I’m not sure who I am without it.
Colossians 3:12 advises what we should do with that kind of anger: “Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” So how do we do that?
- Be honest and take inventory. “But I don’t have an anger problem!” The truth is we all struggle with anger to a degree, but it just takes time to go through it. What anger am I holding onto? What makes us angry on a daily basis? Who are we irritated with? What are we stewing about? Once we can be honest with ourselves, we can open up to others.
- Reach out (or accept help when offered). Just like the hoarders on the show, most of us could use some extra help diffusing our anger. Perhaps it is a psychologist, pastor, or a trusted friend or family member – resources who can help you unload your anger trash bags. Being open to others is often uncomfortable, but it will bring freedom in the end.
- Work one bag at a time. Chances are we can’t eliminate all our anger in a day. However, we can start to unload it one disagreement or one harsh word at a time. Today we can make amends with a friend or choose not to throw our husband’s past mistakes in his face. Once a bag is “tossed out” we are not allowed to go back to it.
Admittedly, I still have a tendency to hoard anger. There’s still quite a few “anger trash bags” to maneuver around. But with God’s help, it’s beginning to look a little cleaner in my soul.