Do you know the tale of The Little Engine That Could? The little train in that children’s story discovered he could do anything by first convincing himself that he could. So he went around continually repeating, “I think I can, I think I can…”
That’s a great tale for teaching children to tune out discouraging voices and believe in themselves. And it worked for the little engine!
But has that ever worked to help you with character change? (Me neither!)
Although it is true that if we become convinced that we can’t do something, we probably won’t be able to do it. But real change takes more than pep talks! I know because I struggled for years with lack of self-control over anger, and the guilt it brought. Despite trying to convince myself that I could do it!
Until the Lord helped me discover 7 tools for breaking through to long-lasting self-control.
1. Learn to count again.
No, I’m not kidding. Pausing to count can help until we learn how to properly deal with our anger, which is often a reflex reaction. Taking a moment to count and reflect, gives us a chance to conquer that impulse and react with calm and reason.
So take a deep breath and ask “Is this really such a major issue?” If the answer is no, then these simple tools may help.
2. Stop blaming others!
No one else can make us mad. We choose to give in to that (often) negative emotion or behavior. We cannot honestly say, “YOU make me mad!” People and circumstances can be maddening indeed, but they do not control us! And we cannot blame them for our own actions or reactions!
3. Own up to our anger.
The anger we feel is real (whether justifiable or not) and must be dealt with. Stuffing it inside just makes us like champagne bottles, ready to burst. And when we finally do express it, we’ll have a greater tendency to explode in unkindness, sarcasm, or even violence.
4. Learn to deal with the issue without blaming.
“I feel really angry and upset over this situation right now.” This lets the other person know how we feel and that we are trying to deal with it properly. Unlike blame placing, this paves the way for reconciliation and bridge building. And allows the other person to admit and deal with their own wrong in the situation. We cannot change others, only ourselves.
5. Treat others as we wish to be treated.
Remembering that we do similar things helps us extend the same grace and forgiveness we’d like to receive. Just as the Lord is ready and willing to forgive our wrong actions, reactions, and words, he is ready to help us forgive others. And remember, a soft answer turns away wrath.
6. Put on our company manners.
We often react worst with those we know best, as we tend to loosen up with them. So sadly, the ones we love most sometimes get the worst treatment. Pause and remember to treat them like the precious treasures they really are!
7. And finally, remember to tell ourselves, “I know I can!”
Not that senselessly repeating that will enable us. But it is next to impossible to do anything unless we first believe that we can do it.
I don’t want to be a harsh person, lashing out in anger. And I’m sure you don’t either. So the next time we feel hemmed in by unkindness, animosity, or wrongdoing, let’s dig into our toolbox and start hammering our way to a break through!
And may the sun never go down on our anger!
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and give no opportunity to the devil. ” — Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV)