Learning to Control My Anger:

Baseball

One memory I do not have of my dad, I never saw him lose his temper or outwardly show anger. Dad did not talk about it much, but he had a turbulent childhood. His childhood included severe discipline, loud harsh arguments between his parents, and dissension between family relatives. Accordingly, one thing Dad would not tolerate was losing your temper and not controlling your anger. It is by no accident that two of the only verses I recall underlined in dad’s Bible were:

1 Peter 3:10: “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.”[1]

Matthew 15:11: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” [2]

Frustrating for Dad, I had a temper when I was a young boy. Mom recalls Dad telling her that my temper would be a challenge for them to deal with. I do not remember it, but mom has reminded me over the years that when Dad first tried to teach me to play chess I lost my temper and he told me that he would not play me again until I learned to control it. Unfortunately this was not the only time this would be a problem. In fact, it would be my temper that would result in one of my most memorable moments with my dad.

Like most young boys my age, I enjoyed playing Little League baseball and I was competitive. I was not the most talented player, so I played as hard as I could. I did everything, every play, every throw, every swing of the bat, as hard as I could. I have never cared how much it hurt, as long as I got the job done. Despite my best efforts, this competitive drive, along with my short temper, would get the best of me at times. Unfortunately, one of these times would be a Little League baseball game on a day Dad was not working, so he was there in the stands watching.

I can not recall the score, what inning it was, who we were playing, or even how I well I was playing. About all I can recall was that we were playing on the field below the town park when I can up to bat. After I was called out on strikes I just had to let the umpire know that he was wrong, that last pitch was not a strike! So I slammed the plate with my bat and told the umpire what I thought about his eyesight.

Next thing I knew Dad had come out of the stands, grabbed my arm, and gave me a swat on the backside right there at home plate. This moment is forever frozen in my mind. I was horrified that Dad would do this in front of my entire world. I was humiliated. I remember starting to defend myself, when Dad abruptly interrupted me and said there was never a reason to act that way and pulled me out of the game.

I was appalled! Yet, even at that young age, I knew that Dad was right and there was no excuse for what I had done. First and foremost, I knew never to treat any adult with disrespect. Moreover, Dad was a Colorado State Patrolman so I knew darn well to give adults who worked in positions of authority the respect they deserved. I had been taught this included teachers, principles, ministers, policemen, referees, and even umpires.

In today’s times, Dad using corporal punishment may seem extreme and likely could have cost him his job. Truth is, Dad may have only given me a few swats in my entire life and this was the only time I recall it happening in public. Not that I was a perfect child, Dad was afraid he could hurt us so a single swat with his patrol belt was as far as he would go, and that may have only happened once or twice. The reality was that I would rather get any other punishment from my mom than my dad given me his look of disappointment. Something that frustrated Mom at times.

Fact is, I have no memory how hard Dad swatted me, nor do I recall any pain from the swat at all. It was the pain of the public disgrace for behaving in a manner that I knew was wrong that I have always remembered. While I have never lost my competitive drive, this was the last time I can recall losing my temper in public. Likewise, only a select few have even seen me lose my temper in private. It may seem extreme, but Dad made his point, a point I needed to learn, and it is a point I am thankful that he made, and a point I have never forgotten.

As I remember this point Dad made sure I would never forget, I am reminded of the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament of the Bible. King Solomon, the son of King David, was considered a man of great wisdom and known to be the source of the Book of Proverbs[3]. Below are just a few of the numerous verses in which this man of great wisdom addressed the importance of controlling your temper and managing your anger:

Proverbs 14:17, “A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.”[4]

Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty…” [5]

Proverbs 22:24-25, “Don’t befriend people controlled by anger; don’t associate with hot-tempered people; otherwise, you will learn their ways and become trapped.”[6]

Proverbs 29:11, “A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.”[7]

Dad may be gone, but when I read this wisdom passed on in Proverbs by King Solomon I can almost hear my dad explaining to me that this was what he wanted me to understand. By interceding and taking this action at home plate Dad was making it clear that he held me to a higher standard, the same standard he had learned from reading his Bible. In turn, Dad was letting me know that I too should hold myself to this same higher standard. In this way, I feel as though Dad is still with me each time I read one of these Bible verses. Although I have not always been able to live up to this lofty goal, I have tried, which helps me feel a closeness to my dad and has had a tremendous impact on the way my life has played out.

HigherStandard

Looking back, I can see how God was already preparing me for what was to come. Using my dad, God was teaching me the perils of anger, just as we are taught by Jesus’ brother James[8] in James 1:19-20 “…But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God[9], and by King Solomon in Psalm 29:11 “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.[10] When Dad made this memorable point that easily giving into anger and losing my temper would not be tolerated, he was teaching me to “to be slow to anger” as he knew anger leads “only to evil“. In this way, Dad taught me to hold myself to a higher standard!

I understand now why I could not allow myself to be angry at the men who murdered my dad. Despite what had happened to him, Dad had never been an angry person and had taught me to control my temper. If I allowed myself to become angry, I would become more like them men that killed Dad, and less like my dad. If I gave into anger, I would be giving these murdering men more influence over my life than my dad, and that simply was something I could never imagine doing! Dad was one of the good guys, they were not, and the idea that I could have given in and allowed them to have greater influence over my life than Dad was something I simply could never allowed to have happened!

[1] King James Version (KJV).

[2] King James Version (KJV).

[3] Known as the “The Proverbs of Solomon” in the Hebrew Bible.

[4] New International Version (NIV).

[5] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[6] Common English Bible (CEB).

[7] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[8] Written by James the Just, the brother of Jesus and First Bishop of Jerusalem.

[9] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[10] English Standard Version (ESV).

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