I apologize in advance for bringing up an indelicate topic. Miss Manners may not approve. But I have to say that there’s no sound I hate more than the sound of someone clearing the mucus in his throat and getting ready to spit. Just the thought of it makes me convulse involuntarily. Unfortunately, in the four years I lived in east Asia, I had to get used to that sound as a part of everyday life.
“It’s because of the pollution – that’s why people spit so much,” local friends told me. “It’s the dust in the air from the Gobi Desert,” others explained. “The wind blows it here and it irritates people’s throats when they breathe.” “It’s just a cultural thing,” some said, “We’ve always done it.” Whatever the reason, I didn’t like it.
But I couldn’t make it go away. So I had to come to peace with the fact that people spit in this area of the world. And I tried to focus on all the wonderful things I loved about that country and culture, and ignore the spitting.
And it worked for awhile. I would still grimace and shudder when people passing me on the sidewalk started clearing their throats. But I told myself it didn’t bother me.
In my fourth year of teaching English in east Asia, however, everything started getting on my nerves. The mobs of people pushing to get to the ticket counter in the train station. The crowds jostling each other to get on or off the bus. The taxi drivers charging three times the normal rate just because I wasn’t a local. The kids staring at me as I rode my bicycle to school, and shouting “wai guo ren! wai guo ren!” (foreigner! foreigner!). But the thing that irritated me the most, like fingernails scraping on a chalkboard, was the clearing the throat and spitting.
One particular day as I was walking to classes, I was inwardly seething at the seeming rudeness and insensitivity of people around me. “If ONE MORE PERSON spits on the street,” I vowed to myself as I clenched my fists, “I’m going to PUNCH HIM!”
As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I was appalled at myself. “How could I even THINK such a thing? What is WRONG with me?”
Sadly it took me many months to identify the root of my anger – years of building frustration from feeling misunderstood, unappreciated, overworked, and not listened to by those in position of authority over me. But the threatening explosions of anger and feeling out of control of my emotions were the warning signals that something in my heart wasn’t right. And as I began to process the hurts that had led to this point, and to repent of my wrong responses, finally I was able to conquer my anger as I released my pain to God and chose to forgive those that had hurt me.
What is the Condition of Your Heart?
“Like a city breached, without walls, is one who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). Do you feel like your emotions are out of control? Are you letting the hurts and challenges of life tear down the protective walls around your heart? Have you allowed anger, bitterness and unforgiveness to move in and take residence?
Examine the walls of your heart today. Forgive those who’ve offended you. Pour out the pain of your heart to God. And allow Him to repair the broken-down places. And ask the Holy Spirit to help you to guard your heart, so that your anger doesn’t get out of control!