In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors tell a story of a husband who came home after a long day of work to find his wife crying and upset. When he asked her what was wrong, she snapped back "you know what's wrong!" He had no idea. They had been happily married for years and he found her emotional state unusual and unsettling. He probed deeper. Reluctantly, she showed him a receipt from a cheap motel down the road. The receipt read $58. Why would he need to stay at a hotel down the street? What was this all about?
She jumped to the conclusion that he was having an affair, after all that could be the only explanation. She was angry and extremely hurt. What was his excuse?
The husband seemed caught off guard and confused. He said, "there has to be some explanation. I didn't stay at the hotel. I'm not having an affair!" But she had already made up her mind. She would hear none of it.
Have you ever jumped to conclusions and got mad at someone only to find out you were wrong? Of course you have, we all have. Chances are that your anger was a response to a story you sold yourself on what the other party's motive was. In fact, you were convinced of it.
This story was no different. After investigating the receipt, the couple discovered that the hotel charge was because they had gone out to eat together at a Chinese restaurant earlier that month that was owned by the same man who owned the hotel. He had run their Credit Card through the hotel's machine and therefore Visa showed it as an expense from the hotel rather than from the restaurant. Oops!
Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" in Matthew 7:1. We are told other places in the Bible, however, we are to judge people's actions and track record. But that's not what Jesus is referring to in Matthew 7. Jesus is telling us is that judging someone's motives is a dangerous practice and will often lead to error. And here's why.
Anger is an emotion, and we control our own emotions. No one can make us mad. We make ourselves mad. Anger is often a response to a story we sell on the motive of the person who "made us mad." We jump to conclusions based on our past, or their past and formulate a story that convinces us we have been wronged and we are angry. Therefore, if you want to change your emotion, change the story you are selling yourself.
Paul said in Philippians 4:8-9, "I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse."
If we were to believe the best in people first, then seek the facts to find out the real story, we would save ourselves from a lot of strife and conflict. Because, let's face it, sometimes we're wrong and sometimes being wrong can cause a great deal damage to valuable relationships.
So in conclusion, when you're angry at someone, check to see if you know the facts or if your "facts" are just a story you have sold yourself. If it is a story, change the story. Believe the best in them. And then, seek the facts until you can uncover the truth.
Question: Pay attention to your emotions today. What emotions have you had today because of a story you told yourself? Try changing the story. What happened to your emotion?