Saturday, April 03, 2010

Do not let the sun go down...

A friend, who is in the middle of a painful and profoundly sad divorce, told Mango & I this morning that the biggest thing we could do for our marriage is to follow the Bible's advice to not let the sun go down on our anger. I thought about that in light of another conversation I had with a married friend the other day. We were talking about how sometimes you're just too tired to talk about whatever it is that's making you angry. Or, in mathematical terms, tired + angry = completely irrational and unable to reach any sane solution. Things tend to look so much better in the morning. Problems looks smaller in the light of day after a good night's sleep. Except...

By either ill fate or a stroke of luck, I am constitutionally unable to sleep while angry/upset/frustrated. So, try as I might to take a break and let sleeping dogs lie until morning, I can't do it. I won't sleep anyway. I need to solve things RIGHT NOW. Or, as Mango will confirm, three hours from now after a whole lot of crying.

My method isn't entirely sane. It certainly involves a lot of drama. Problems look so much larger than life at the end of a long and tiring day. Not to mention that I know that I'll know in the morning how small the problem actually was in proportion to my emotional response, and that could be embarrassing. I know this, and I stay up late wrestling things through anyway. Fortunately, Mango is somewhat similar and isn't interested in the restless and unsatisfying sleep of the angry. Mostly, though, I know he just loves me, and so he paces with me through the emotional drama so we can get to the end of it and sleep in peace.

Our friend this morning said that he went to bed angry many-a-night, and this led to a sort of syndrome of sweeping things under the rug. Because the issues looked so much smaller in the morning, they never really get resolved until they were much, much bigger. In his case, unsolvable.

So, maybe, the whole thing about not letting the sun go down on our anger makes it so we wrestle over the small issues before they become big issues. All the little things pop up when we're tired. Is it possible that this is the right time to deal with them - tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and emotional, though we are? Is this, perhaps, the time when we let our hearts and emotions rule over our reason? And this is the place where we, therefore, get at the "heart" of the issue, the driving force, the internal hurts, fears, motivations, and insecurities? Is this the place where we can speak to and bring healing to each other in the deeper places of our souls?

I can't say that I know the answer because I know that waiting it out DOES sometimes prevent us from saying the wrong things, from speaking hurtful words that we don't really mean. I know, not because we ever go to bed angry, but because sometimes our disagreements are interrupted by the demands of daily life. We have children, after all. And when we come back to them, the issues no longer hold such emotional fire. And sometimes we even find that we don't need to have that argument at all. It was silly and unimportant, and we find grace for each others shortcomings.

So, what's the balance? There seems to be something to letting the small stuff slide sometimes. Some things we ought to simply forgive and keep moving. But, there's also something to not letting ALL the small stuff slide. Because some of that small stuff turns into big stuff. We need to distinguish between something that's going to get bigger and something that truly isn't a big deal. And how can we know when we're too exhausted to think straight?



  1. This is a great post! My wife and I are definitely part of the staying-up-until-something-is-resolved camp. But it is a process though. It always seems like a journey when we 'disagree' at night: first we have the issue that started it, then we have the over-reaction (usually on my end), then the cool-down, then the calm discussion of deeper issues at hand, then resolution of some kind.
    I think sometimes it may be better to be tired because then all your guards are down so there is opportunity to be vulnerable, but I guess also the opportunity to be hurtful.
    You are right: balance is key!
    Thanks for sharing your insight!

  2. Oh boy. I don't know. I think we've gone to bed mad maybe only a couple of times because we too just HAVE to hash it out. Maybe it's because we're stubborn :) But I do think that sometimes we simply forgive in our sleep, strange as that may sound, if it's something small. Love just overrides and we move on, not bottling up but just free because the mercies really are new every morning. huh...this got me thinking :)



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