So, I have a confession to make. I have a problem. I get better for awhile, but then I slip and I find myself right in the middle of it again. I know I need help, and I know that I have friends and family that want to help me, but sometimes their help just drives me deeper into it. I need to get sober, and I hope that this is the year.
Now, before we go any further, I am not struggling with any type of alcohol or drug addiction, and I am not mocking those who do. My struggle is one of a different nature that while not physically damaging, can be just as destructive to the relationships I value.
Anger and a lack of self-control.
I have had a rough time with this since I was a teenager. If I felt mistreated when I didn’t deserve it, I would get angry. It would be even worse when I KNEW I was right. It has been a part of me for years. It ebbs and flows enough that I don’t think that I am known as a hot head (I might be wrong about that), but I am sure that there are enough people out there who have had a peek into that part of me to know it is there.
This past week it rose up again. I lost it and got pretty loud. I realized it right away and made my apologies, but that doesn’t make anything go away. I’m tired of those apologies. I want something better for the people I do life with.
One of my favorite characters on television is from the show Blue Bloods. Tom Selleck plays NYPD Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Francis to his Dad). Frank is a Marine. He is the son of a cop who also was the Police Commissioner. He has three sons who became cops, and a daughter who works as an assistant district attorney. The family gets together for Sunday dinner every week, and while not perfect, they are always trying.
Week after week I watch Frank come face to face with some seemingly overwhelming obstacle and no discernible right answer. Sometimes he is caught between two of his kids that want him to take their side in an argument. Sometimes he is caught between his church and his work. Sometimes it is the mayor or some publicity issue that is waging war against his personal convictions.
No matter what it is that comes up, by the end of almost every episode, we see that he is able to come to some type of resolution. I know. The magic of television would be VERY convenient if we could just sprinkle it over our own problems!
So, where was I going with this? Oh, yeah. One thing we rarely see happen is Frank “losing it.” His voice gets a little high and he might wave his hands and arms a little as he expresses his frustration with the situation, but even when that happens, we always see the same move take place at that moment when you think he is about to REALLY tee off on someone. I call it the Frank Reagan Scowl of Sober Deliberation. (FRSSD for short)
Rather than lose his temper, Frank pulls out the FRSSD. On screen that usually leads to a soft fade, commercial break, or a quick switch to one of the other story lines that the episode is covering. We don’t get to see how Frank wrestles the problem, and we don’t always get to see how much time the FRSSD needs to be employed before we get to the next step.
What we see is a man who is willing to confront his fears and his anger and hold them in check rather than lashing out. We see a man who looks inside and examines the nuances of not only the situation, but also what his responses might be along with their consequences. He doesn’t react when faced with these tough spots. He thinks about how to face the situation in a manner allowing him to maintain his character and bring about the most equitable solution possible.
I don’t want to say that he is holding it all inside rather than spilling it all out. He spills! However, he only lets out what is necessary for those around him to reach an understanding that he is in turmoil over something, but not willing to lash out while he works on getting to the next face. I call that one the Frank Reagan Face of Bold Resolve. (FRFBR for short.)
When the FRFBR comes out, you know that the situation is now in hand. Frank is getting ready to move ahead. He knows there may be some consequences, but he has measured them and sees them as acceptable. He knows that feelings may yet be hurt, but he has determined that it will not be done in a careless manner. He builds his heart into his response. He usually ends up giving a little more of himself in those situations and plants a seed for growth in the relationship that will help with future confrontations as well.
In 2 Timothy, Paul is speaking to his disciple, Timothy, and telling him how he should conduct himself in his role as a young pastor. Paul knew full well the challenges Timothy would face. Churches are not easy places to live, and it is even harder if you hold a position of leadership. One piece of advice he gave Timothy was this:
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:5
That sober-mindedness he refers to is that Frank Reagan-type of mind. A mind that chooses not to rage at the injustices he sees around him, but to slap on that FRSSD and work on a solution that will allow him to fulfill his ministry as a pastor and reach souls for Christ. He has a job to do, and losing his head will not get it done. He needs to get to that FRFBR and move boldly forward for God in love for those he serves.
Peter also tells us that there is another need for taking the time to wear the FRSSD. It is because there are bigger things at play than what we are facing. Just like there are layers to Frank’s problems and our problems, we have a bigger problem in the wings.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8
Satan wants to get believers to “lose it. ”
If he can get us to “lose it”, he gets to see us hurt the reputation of Christ and His redeeming work. People look at us and see our flaws, but not necessarily the work that God is doing in our lives as a whole. They are just more likely to remember the guy who loses his temper.
If we allow ourselves to “lose it” too many times, we will develop the habit of lashing out and hurting people. Over time that will cause people to pull away from us and also cause us to withdraw to avoid causing pain when we realize that is what we are doing. Once you pull back too much you will find it hard to crawl out again.
So, with 2018 just around the bend. I have decided to make a greater effort at being that SOBER man that Paul and Peter admonish us to be. I like to pick a word every year to focus on, and the year it is #SOBER.
I would love to end this next year looking back and not being able to remember when I had to apologize for losing my temper and saying rash or hurtful things. I would like to be able to see where I put on the FRSSD and worked it out to get to the FRFBR without needing to hang my head in between.
I’m going to need to work at it, and I will need to put some reminders in place over the next year. (My wife and co-workers might start to think I have crush on Tom Selleck because of having his picture taped and tacked up in are different places!) I’ll also need some accountability from my friends, family, and a few co-workers. Tell me to get my “Frank Face” on instead of letting myself get loud.
I’m living a life that is imperfect. I make mistakes, but I am not settling for living that way. Relentless Growth is a determination to not live as I am, but to grow in Christ even when it is hard. This is going to be hard. I am attacking one of my deepest weaknesses in this. What better place to ask for the unlimited strength of God!
I hope you have a great new year and that you find something you are going to focus on as well. Feel free to comment and share this post with others.