Just a few wayward sparks. That’s all it takes to start a fire capable of burning through an entire city.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is proof of that. It is one of the largest disasters in American history. According to popular accounts from the time, Catherine O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in a humble barn on DeKoven Street. What started as a small fire grew into an inferno that destroyed miles of homes and razed Chicago’s business district.
Just a few wayward sparks. That’s all it takes to send our emotions out of control as well.
Anger may start as a small irritation, but it can easily grow into something much bigger and potentially damaging. It’s often the littlest things that cause us to lose our cool and to send our emotions quickly spiraling out of control.
Scripture talks a lot about our emotions and what we should do with them. James 1:20 tells us: “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (ESV). I think that’s true, in part, because many people don’t understand what to do with their anger in the midst of conflict or a stressful moment.
Our guest on today’s and tomorrow’s program, Lysa TerKeurst, says, “Your feelings are indicators, not dictators. Emotions are not a problem to solve. They’re a tension to manage.”
You don’t do that by stuffing your emotions or by exploding on other people, but by better understanding what your emotions are trying to tell you. Knowing what your anger is about can guide you in what to do with it. Better choices lead to better results, from destructive outcomes to healthier relationships with the people that really matter to you.
Managing your emotions will also empower you to handle conflict more effectively. Every disagreement has two sides. If you can keep your cool, you can share your opinion and listen to someone else without having to get defensive or “win the argument.” It’s good to ask yourself, “Am I trying to prove that I’m right? Or am I trying to improve this relationship?” You can’t do both at the same time.
Change like this rarely comes easy, of course, but even if you feel like it’s two steps forward and one step back, you’re still moving forward. Lysa calls that “imperfect progress.” It’s all about making small changes. Just do something to engage the process of giving your emotions over to God.
You’ll hear a lot of great suggestions from Lysa for how to do that on our broadcast “Handling Your Emotions.” I think our conversation together will give you some good ideas for better managing your emotions in stressful moments.
You can also get a copy of Lysa’s book “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” for a gift of any amount when you call us at 1-800-A-Family (800-232-6459).