"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly calling a brother 'Idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'Stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill."
~Jesus, Matthew 5:21-22, The Message
My husband had made me so angry, I was seething. My heart was racing, and I literally trembled with emotion. The words that spewed out of my mouth felt like hot gravel as they hit the air. And once they were spoken, there was no taking them back. I was so upset with myself. I knew better than to add fuel to the fire by speaking out of heated emotions. I'd like to blame those pesky hormones, but I doubt it would hold up in any court on earth or in heaven.
The air between us hung heavy for days. We were both coping with the incident in our own way. The hardest part for me wasn't the act that had led to my outburst. It was my hateful words that clung to me like a thick fog. With time, we both recovered. But I still shudder when I think back to that night.
In the past, it's been easy to breeze over the sixth Commandment, "Do not murder". Of course I know it is wrong to kill someone. But when I read what Jesus had to say about this command, I am able to see there is more than meets the eye...and I am humbled. Being angry enough to lash out at someone qualifies as a guilty verdict. Gulp...
Now I am sweating, and not because it is over one hundred degrees outside. If full blown anger is on a par with the actual act of murder, I am so busted. Sure, I've had the self-control to not act upon my anger in a violent way. But what about controlling my thoughts and my words when my emotions are running strong? Ugh...
Whoever coined the phrase, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me," had it so wrong. You'd have to be made of sticks and stones to not be impacted by hurtful words. In fact, name-calling is a specific example Jesus used of how we break the sixth Commandment.
I can hear the gavel and the jury's verdict ~ GUILTY! But here's the good news; my debt was paid and nailed to that rugged cross. I don't have to remain imprisoned by guilt and shame because of my careless, hurtful words.
That said, I don't want to continue to repeat the same unhealthy attitudes and behavior either. I have to make it a priority to let go of my "right" to be angry. That means choosing to clothe myself with love and acceptance, putting others before myself. This doesn't come easily for me. But it certainly won't happen if I don't aim for it, day by day, even minute by minute. Forgiveness is key. Without it, I don't stand a chance of honoring this Commandment.
The icing on the cake is how much healthier and happier I will be if I can master the art of living at peace with the people in my life. Anger is a powerful emotion that can influence us to do things we never dreamed we were capable of doing. I don't want this volatile emotion controlling me, so I release it. I think I have a chance at keeping this Commandment if I make it a daily priority to put God and others before myself. One thing is for sure...now that I have written about it, I am going to be tested. Lord, help me remember the words of Marcus Antonius, "Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, then from those very things for which you are angry and grieved." Amen!
"Watch your thoughts;
they become words.
Watch your words;
they become actions.
Watch your actions;
they become habits.
Watch your habits;
they become character.
Watch your character;
it becomes your destiny."
"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart."
~Saint Francis of Assisi