He looked like a nice dog, but he hated my UPS truck. Every time I drove past, he charged furiously, snarling and barking as if he wanted to devour the whole big brown bus in one bite. Until, one day, he charged too hard. In his fury, he ran straight under the dual rear wheels. There was nothing I could do. He was so angry that he destroyed himself attacking his enemy.
Humans do that. No, not run under the UPS truck, but explode in a fit of rage that injures themselves and ones they love. There is a name for that sudden outburst. It’s called a paroxysm.
You may not have heard the word, but you’ve seen them – eruptions of profanity, shouting, sarcasm, or insults. You’ve been on the receiving end. And, chances are, you’ve had your own paroxysms.
You’ve also known the damage they can do. Like a land mine, these explosions rip people apart. They sever marriages. They cut off kids from parents. They kill friendships.
The real problem is a lack of love. The apostle Paul uses this word “paroxysm” (it was originally a Greek word) in his famous chapter about love. “It is not easily angered,” is the way it’s translated (1 Corinthians 13:4). Real love does not have paroxysms!
How do you stop them? There are some simple steps to protect against paroxysms. The first is to see the danger of biting truck tires. Too often we laugh off our temper as an amusing family trait. But the truth is, our explosions are deadly. Of our tongue, the Bible says, “It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). Take it seriously.
Secondly, learn to bark from the curb. It’s not wrong to be angry. “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). You can be angry without doing anything wrong if you handle it properly. That takes determination and practice.
Thirdly, see the truck coming. Prepare your heart for each day by taking time to tune in to what is true and important. In other words, start your day with devotional time – prayer and Scripture. Then, anticipate the trouble spots ahead. Expect the inevitable frustrations. If you have a meeting with someone difficult, plan how you’ll control your feelings and respond kindly.
Love allows no paroxysms. Do you?