Tears or temper? It probably depends on your sex. Women tend to cry; men tend to lose their temper. It’s one of the basic differences between the sexes, but in both cases, it is a manifestation of emotions that are deeply rooted within you. Both tears and temper have their place in life. A gentle river brings refreshing water to parched land and thirsty people, but out of control, an angry river becomes a rampaging flood producing death and destruction.
Very quickly in life, children learn that the display of certain emotions causes definite responses in peers or their parents. A display of tears or temper will often cause others to give in so a child gets his way. Then, having learned as a child that tears or temper will allow a youngster to get the candy he wants, a teen may use tears or temper to get the use of the family car or permission to stay out later at night.
In our adult life, tears and tempers are powerful tools people use to manipulate each other, and in between the two emotions, there is a vast rainbow of other emotions that can be turned on or turned off, depending on what an individual wants to see happen.
Is this valid, using tears and temper to get what you want? Generally, not so! Manipulation may get you what you want, but it comes with the price of resentment, and often tears or temper produce a ping-pong reaction by the person you are trying to control. When you use tears and temper to control other people, you are paying for what you get in the hard currency of loss and pain. Gain comes with the price tag of a deteriorating relationship.
Long ago the writer of Proverbs wrote, “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32, KJV). Again, Proverbs says, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). That last phrase, “self-control” or discipline, is the key to the whole issue.
Like a city whose walls are broken down, is a man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28
Take, for example, a young junior executive who worked for a bank. No one could deny that he had the marks of a rising leader. He had a good educational background, a graduate degree in banking–good credentials, and he generally made good decisions. But he had one flaw. He couldn’t hold his temper. When he didn’t get his way, he exploded. Most of the time, people didn’t push him. They stayed out of his way. But when the position of general manager became vacant, management passed over him and promoted a less qualified individual. Everybody knew he had better qualifications, but the other person could work with people.
Can you relate to what I’ve said? How do you overcome the problem?
Guideline #1: Acknowledge that you do use emotions to manipulate people. Sit down and take a look at your life. Acknowledging a blind spot is like turning around and moving in a different direction.
Guideline #2: Understand that manipulation is selfish. It’s a flaw in your character. Selfishness is part of the fabric of our old sinful nature. You may need to confess this shortcoming with your mate and make the conscious decision to stop using tears or temper to get your way.
Guideline #3: Practice discipline, which becomes a greater force than tears or temper. There’s nothing wrong with tears or temper apart from using a right thing in the wrong way. Emotions provide color to the landscape of life, so learn when to let the emotions flow, and when it’s time to say “enough!”
Resource reading: Philippians 3:1-11