Yesterday’s message …
- Started what might be our most timely series ever, Up In Arms;
- Presented Proverbs as one of the few places in the bible where context is something, not everything;
- Had a rare “two phased” bottom line. For most of the message it was People who yell the loudest have the most to hide … And then, after asking people to write down three very specific questions (another rarity), I revealed the rest of it: … so trade your shouting for sharing.
I may have told some of you this before, but about about 14 yrs ago, right before we moved into this bldg, and I just had the worst week at week. Poorly executed decision at just the wrong time, big mess, dogs & cats living together. Anyway, early one morning that week I was taking my kids to catch a ride to school. They couldn’t drive yet; now they are both married & gone so this ain’t no yesterday story. Anyway, on that day in that week, one of them (I know who it was but I am going to keep it anonymous to protect his identity) said exactly the wrong thing and I stopped the car, put it in Park (that’s how you KNOW this is serious!) and just laid into them. I was ticked at my kids and I suspect it was loud enough the whole subdivision knew about. But you know what I realized? I wasn’t really mad at them; I was mad at church, at the situation, at my own dumb timing. I felt powerless to fix a situation here and as I took it out on my suddenly shivering kids they must have wondered, “Who took our dad and replaced him with an axe murderer?!” I had stuff going on, the wrong thing happened at the wrong time, and all of a sudden I was UP IN ARMS. (They would have said OUT OF HIS MIND.)
There’s a lot of that going on, have you noticed. It didn’t stay in 2005. People are perpetually UP IN ARMS about something. Most obviously, we live in a culture whose most valuable currency, it seems, is outrage. Over-reach on the left, pushback on the right, a leader who even his closest friends will admit can … fan the flames? … of outrage just a little bit. Wherever you are, and depending on what channel you watch or what sites you visit, someone is always outraged about something. I’d say that outrage is an industry, and it’s making some people very rich, and doing so at many of our expense. When volume increases, wisdom diminishes.
But let’s be real. It’s not just politicians who get us up in arms. It’s preachers, too. I’ll long remember the time in another church, another town when I made a man made with something I did (preach the Gospel?) and he was like “You’ve made me mad, now it’s time for you to move from here. Jesus only stayed on earth 3 ½ years and then the Father called him home because his humanity was starting to show through, and it’s the same with you.” Yep, some of you have felt that way about preachers in your past … or your present. Politicians, preachers, Panthers! Season ticket holders: aren’t you glad you have first dibs on those PLAYOFF tickets? Doh! And other than that trifecta of Ps, there’s kids, spouse, traffic, restaurant servers, flight attendants, everybody ever on Facebook. You know, that place that because it is digital feels antiseptic but actually can be quite toxic. So it’s you, it’s me, it’s the mild mannered occasionally and the hot headed frequently. There’s the combination of anger and volume and it’s “Charlotte, we have a problem.”
And up against our upraised arms walks Jesus. That timeless collection of wisdom that, if we were to read it and absorb it, it would PREVENT so many problems before they ever started. It is also the one biblical book where context is SOMETHING not EVERYTHING. A string of pearls, sometimes connected, other times not. Speaking of which, look at 29:11:
Fools give full vent to their rage,
but the wise bring calm in the end.
Huh. Fools have no filter, no edit. The wise bring calm. Fools react by impulse and vent. Wise react by reflecting. Full vent there = Full volume. And I’ve wondered, why, exactly is it so FOOLISH? Why are they not just hot headed or bad tempered but that worst of all Proverbs’ descriptors, foolish.
As I considered that, I realized it’s because Proverbs knows something very significant: just because anger gets vented, that doesn’t mean issues get addressed. Because here’s what’s really going on, here’s what’s really behind the outrage machine, here’s why you lose your temper a lot or live with someone who does: People who yell the loudest have the most to hide. It’s true!
See, anger is the ultimate defense, the peerless deflection of something much deeper going on in the life of the temper loser. If I get mad at the politician, the press, the server, the preacher, maybe, just maybe people won’t notice what I have going on on the side. Remember the guy in that other church so eager for me to move? Well, I was too inexperienced and self-absorbed at the time to take it anything but personally, but over time I came to find out that I was like #5 preacher in a string of preachers he’d pulled the same shenanigan with. AND all that was really to camouflage the difficulty HE had at work. Kind of job to job to job. He kept getting bossed around so when he got the opportunity, he bossed around! People who yell the loudest have the most to hide.
But there’s more. It’s the mom who was never satisfied with you or your performance or your cleanliness and then you discover that her anger was a cover for the eating disorder she never could quite overcome. It’s the dad who got so irate on the road because back at home he can’t control his drinking. It’s the someone here who yells at Republicans – or Democrats – as a way of covering up the self-loathing going on for the side relationship. It’s the person you know who keeps getting mad at preachers or churches and the real heart of the matter is frustration with the fact he’s not in ministry. People who yell the loudest have the most to hide.
I have noticed that this is very much the territory of what we in church world call “Legalists.” Not quite so common these days, but every so often they make an appearance or two. It’s a religion of NO. No dancing. No drinking. No tattoos. No movies. No rock. No, no, no. And around that type in church land I USED to get all defensive, thinking I needed to match up to that straight edge spirituality, but now I have been around enough to know something else is behind it all. The more legalist in public, the more lawless in private. And we all know loud legalists in church land who got behind closed doors and turned into the worst sorts of abusers. People who yell the loudest have the most to hide.
So: what do you do if you’re on the receiving end of this? If you’re the spouse or child or sibling or coworker? Well, it sure might be helpful to ask “Who are you really mad at? What’s really going on?” Now: that question might well escalate the situation but it might just eliminate it as well. I know one thing that has helped me tremendously as I’ve gained some years is to not take personally things that aren’t personal. Now: when you’re as self-aborbed – OK< narcissistic – as I am, everything is about you. No it’s not. People aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are. People aren’t motivated by you as much as you think they are. And their anger isn’t genuinely directed at you as much as you think it it.
Armed with this kind of knowledge you know what you can do? When someone says “You make me so mad!” you can more confidently say, “No. It didn’t make you mad. I said/did/thought something and chose to react in anger. You made you mad.” Yep. You made you mad because you really have something causing you frustration or shame that you don’t want others to know about. People who yell the loudest have the most to hide.
And for those of you who find your own volume increasing, starring in your own personal yellfest, step back and ask a couple of questions. Questions like …
Who is the REAL target? My kids get the brunt of my anger but am I just venting at my mom and dad for stuff that happened way back when? Am I just repeating cycles that I should stop? See, the target of your tantrum is not the same as the object of your anger.
Who is paying a high price for what I’m too cheap to examine? I know first hand that a lot of people need ongoing, pay-for-it, therapeutic work. Please. Don’t say, “I can’t afford it.” If you have a compulsion, if you have despair, if you have wounding that no amount of pulling yourself up will get you out of, you can’t afford not to.
How is my anger a downpayment on future relationship control? Man, this is a big one. A lot of you have learned through the years that by losing your temper occasionally and THREATENING to lose it frequently, you can control the behavior of others. They are so scared of what MIGHT HAPPEN that they sort of grin, bear it, and do what you say. You didn’t know all that’s what was going on until just now, but now you do. Listen: if you are successful at getting people to walk on eggshells around you, you WILL have their compliance but you WILL NOT have their love. It’s not worth it. REFRAIN
Yes, you’ve got it now. The people you GET mad at are not the ones you ARE mad at. People who yell the loudest have the most to hide. … but there’s more … so trade your shouting for sharing. The habit, the relationship, the despair, the memories … all that you are currently hiding, in some cases because in order to HAVE IT you’ve got to HIDE IT … bring that stuff out. It’s why pastors are here. It’s why counselors exist. It’s why recovery groups are everywhere. I know about 100 ppl at this church who would be dead were it not for their recovery group. The 100 I know barely scratches the surface of ppl for whom it is true. So far in your life, it’s been easier to yell at what doesn’t matter than deal with what does. So: start dealing. People who yell the loudest have the most to hide, so trade your shouting for sharing.
You can’t live this on your own. But you can be empowered by the one who could and did. Think about it. Jesus could have vented. He could have railed. He could have taken anger he no doubt feels towards Satan and hurled it at his disciples. He could have done all that. But he didn’t. Instead he died, naked, vulnerable, holding nothing so he could be raised. And the one who held nothing back was raised do he could ultimately hold everything in, including you.