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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You giving anger fuel?

Marcus Aurelius was an emperor of Rome during the second century, but is noted for being one of the "last good ones" of that era. His main "call to fame" are his writings or "meditations" on dedicated service and uncompromising duty - being a great warrior and temperate leader himself. He was what has been coined a philosopher of stoicism - living with a strong commitment to self-restraint, the heartfelt respect of others, and a compelling duty to one's country. He was known as the ruler who lives a temperate life and was pretty much uncompromising in his principles. One of his statements pretty much sums up his philosophy of living: "How much more are the consequences of anger than the causes of it." His understanding of this truth may have made him one of the last "good emperors" of his time - because those who came after him actually didn't adhere to some of the valued principles he upheld. One of my favorite quotes from his writings is: "Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts."

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

I think Paul might have had this "habit" of thinking in mind when he penned these words under the direction of the Holy Spirit during his lifetime. Whatever we fix our thoughts upon will influence the very things we "do" with our bodies, "act out" toward others, and allow to be "done" to us in the course of our lifetime. I have a tendency to get "quiet" at times - almost like a turtle pulling into a shell - activity ceases on the outside, but on the inside I am fully focused on something. Others may see this as being "distant" or "moody", but in actuality I am deeply thinking upon something that is either niggling at me for a solution, or I just need time to ruminate on stuff so I get the right perspective on the subject at hand. Those who know me well actually give me the space to "get quiet" and "pull in" a little - because they know I need this time to form a plan for the next steps I am about to take.

What we think upon does indeed "color" our actions - our thoughts form a connection between the idea and the solution. The action directs us toward the solution - but it all begins with the thought. No wonder we find ourselves given to some pretty lame actions at times - it isn't that we didn't know what to do - we just didn't let that knowledge ruminate long enough to affect our actions! As Aurelius said, anger is easy - it is the consequences of anger that stick around for a long, long while! These consequences aren't all that easily "cleaned up", are they? Anger is one of those emotions in which we might "react" with either outburst or withdrawal, violence or malicious intent. Anger is also one of those emotions that has a way of "coloring" all the other emotions with at least a "hint" of the same hue!

Jesus didn't spend a lot of time dwelling upon things that angered him - he spent the main part of his life thinking upon what it is he loves in this world - US! Herein is probably one of the simplest truths we can take from Christ's example for us - when our thoughts are directed toward loving others, we find our actions "flow" in that same direction. It is easy to find fault and to dwell upon that fault we find - but it is much more profitable to both others and ourselves when we choose rather to dwell upon the things we can find of value in each other. We might just realize that choosing to dwell upon what is good in others helps us to draw together and have less distance build between each of us. Anger has no opportunity for flare up where there is no fuel to kindle it! Just sayin!