Coddling Danger

Coddling Danger

Okay, so it’s late one night. I’m finishing up the dishes, when my husband says, “What that noise?” I’m dog-tired but shut off the water to see what he’s talking about.


I hear the familiar “chirp” of a smoke alarm battery about to die. It’s loud enough to be annoying.

We have two smoke alarms close together—one in the hall and another a few feet away inside the bedroom door. We stand underneath both trying to determine which one is beeping.

Wait for it…BEEP.

BatteriesIt has to be the bedroom one. I get a ladder and a new 9-volt battery. Once Duncan snaps it in, we pause and listen. BEEP. Good grief! There’s no sleeping with that going on. We check expiration dates on the battery packages and try other new ones. BEEP.

I close the door to see if it’s really the hall smoke alarm after all. BEEP.

It’s not.

Who are you going to call at 11:00 p.m.? I get on my computer to watch YouTube tutorials, thinking—how complicated can this be? Duncan is so irritated he’s threatening to cut wires.

I watch several How-To-Stop-The-Beep videos and say to myself—we must be idiots!  I know how to change a battery.


Duncan gets the pliers and finally yanks out the electric-wire plug from the back of the smoke alarm. There! That should do it for now. Meanwhile, I’m learning all about 10-year batteries on YouTube.


What on earth? The plastic device is still beeping without electricity or battery power. It’s The Smoke Alarm From Hell! We are driven mad! How can this be? Duncan’s about to get a sledge hammer. I want to bury it outside in the snow.


The Culprit

The Culprit

Then it occurs to me—I had placed a carbon-monoxide warning device on the dresser behind the TV, just inside the bedroom door. It isn’t plugged into any outlet, and the battery is old. It proves to be the hidden source of all the chirping.

Afterwards, I laid in the dark too wired to sleep. I felt angry that I got angry. How did a small plastic device rattle us so acutely?

But the real problem with anger isn’t day-to-day irritations like chirping smoke alarms…or that guy who took your parking place…or a lost pair of glasses. The most damaging kinds of anger are relational and often involve those closest to us.

Anger is a natural human response. It shows we’re alive. As I told my little granddaughter, it’s not wrong to feel mad. The big concern is what we do with anger. Hidden anger—unexamined and unresolved—is a precarious thing. It can destroy relationships, our work life, and even our health.

And as I mentioned last week, God wanted to talk to me about it. Trying to be The Good Child created a pattern of stuffing anger. So one night, I had a dream about a small bear cub that I secretly kept in my childhood bedroom.

Dreams about a real place, especially scenes from early life—are significant. God is showing you something that affected you in your vulnerable years—sometimes profoundly.

Baby bear cubSo this baby bear in my bedroom is getting bigger every minute. As it grows, I realize it isn’t cute anymore and has actually become dangerous. I have to do something, but I must get rid of it without anyone knowing.

I rig a plastic tunnel that looks like a dryer vent hose, except much larger. It runs from my door to the nearest outside door. Opening my bedroom door feels too risky, so I cut a large circle out of the door that leads straight into the tunnel.

The bear will not leave.

I go and find a fish, which happens to be a flounder. I use it to coax the bear out. If the bear doesn’t leave soon, it will be too big for the escape hatch. I feel all kinds of tension. I am not only scared of the bear. I’m also worried that someone will discover  I’ve been keeping a bear cub in my room.

When I woke up, the outcome remained uncertain.

Years later, at a seminar on understanding dreams and visions, I discussed that particular dream with a group of friends. The symbolism became clear. The bear represented anger. When hidden, it can grow into resentment and bitterness.

Bockiges MädchenOne person said the type of fish—a flounder—brought up added meaning. To flounder means to struggle or be in a situation of serious difficulty. It also means to hesitate in confusion.

Clearly this describes the struggle in the dream scene, but the “hesitation” part pointed to an internal conflict. I know anger can lead to bad behavior. But part of me feels alive in that anger and justified to keep it. To give it up feels like letting down my defenses. If I do, what hurt me in the first place might happen again.

Anger is a form of self-preservation.

Concealed anger can signal us like a smoke alarm with a low battery. And if you’re awake in your spirit, the chirping will drive you mad. You know something has to be done about it.

Does this make sense to you? Share your thoughts here…

(More on this topic next week)


  1. Yes, Anger like that is so dangerous. Anger is my default mechanism. I am very quick and hot tempered and can be viewed (and have been) as alarming when I am angry. Trouble is for me-it can be over that quick the other person cannot catch up. Also I am still thin skinned-any offense-even those not meant makes me seeth-sometimes for years. I just cant let it go. I am distressed at how my anger affects those around me. I get angry with myself. And thats the thing, I think that may help. Not that I get angry with myself, but that I learn to give myself mercy and he honest with myself about what’s REALLY going on. To run to my Papa with it, not run away in shame and anger at yet another failure to control myself. So I am learning to run TOO him and say ‘look what I have done Papa!’ I am so sorry. please forgive me and help me to forgive myself. Please Jesus help me to control myself better.’ The other thing I realized for my self-the part relating to being honest with myself is deeper, more core of it all. And I have now taught my son to ask me when I get angry is ‘What are you afraid of mum?’ What’s REALLY going on?’ because I have worked out, often, when I ‘over react’ in anger, it is because I am afraid of something-either thats happened, or i have noticed, or that has been said, or that I cannot cope with something. But I hide my fear in my anger, and in the past-until recently, did not even recognise what I was doing. So now I am learning to bring the hidden fear out to the open. I am learning to turn to God in stead of running away. These actions of the past have perpetuated my anger. The new actions I am learning, help to let it go. I am old for this. I wish I had learned as a child, but I was not taught. So I picked up what I learned from my childhood-repress and explode, and it has hurt my family, my God and myself. But because of the love and wisdom of others and because my Papa (Papa is my name for God, not my biological father) is so kind. I am learning how He handles his anger. As you say, its ok to get angry- God frequently does, but its what he does with it that matters. And I want to be like Him.

    • Nicola…thanks for your honesty! It will help others that you can process so openly. It sounds to me that you might have unhealed original wounds from your childhood. They are like arrows deep in our hearts that stay there even though we come to Christ. John Sandford said that relationships with our fathers and mothers are the trunk of our whole tree. What ever went wrong there if unexamined and unresolved will play out in all current relationships. We get triggered by some similar situation from our past, and the hot quick anger comes out, usually way out of proportion to the situation at hand. Arrows can go very deep. At the shallowest level, when someone hurts us we are mad and form a resentment:(Dad yelled at me, I’m mad). The next level of wounding is where you are hurt so badly that you not only have unforgiveness, but now you put judgment on the person that hurt you. (Dad yelled at me, I’m mad. Dad is a jerk). When ever you put a judgment on someone, the law of reaping and sowing kicks in and some find themselves yelling at their own kids–the very thing that hurt them as a child. When wounding goes even deeper, then sometimes a person will say an inner vow because we never want to be hurt like that again. (Dad yelled, I’m mad, Dad’s a jerk, and now a vow: “I’ll never trust Dad again.”) Vows are spiritually binding until they are broken in the name of Jesus. And probably the deepest level of wounding is when we have all of the above and start to believe a lie (such as: “All men will hurt me) and we are under that overarching theme throughout our life. All this can be resolved! The Holy Spirit can help us remember the original wounds (what was said, or done to hurt us) and we can deal with the resentment by forgiving that person (we forgive because God forgave us–Matthew 18); we can deal with the judgment by repentance (I’m sorry Lord that I called my dad a jerk) and break the reaping and sowing patterns; we can deal with the vows by breaking their power in the name of Jesus, and the truth (not all men will hurt you) will expose the lie and set us free. It’s really important to look at the wounding you might have experienced with both parents, and then go on to see if the Holy Spirit reveals other people that affected you: siblings, extended family, teachers, pastors, friends, bosses, etc. As you do this kind of forgiveness work, God will heal and you won’t get triggered so bad. Less anger, less often, for less long. Here’s one way to start: Picture yourself in a room with Father God. What does it feel like? Is He big and ominous? Do you want to run to the far end of the room? Or do you see yourself climbing into his lap? Do the same thing with Jesus and then the Holy Spirit. You might be surprised that you don’t have the same reaction to each. If you have trouble with Father God, then it might indicate that you have forgiveness work to do toward your father, or men in authority (doctors, teachers, pastors). If you have trouble with Jesus, it points to wounds with siblings, friends or associates. If you have trouble with the Holy Spirit it often points to hurts you may have experience with your mother, grandmothers, aunts, because the Holy Spirit is the nurturing, comforting, guiding Person of the Trinity. See what happens. I have an 8 page handout on this forgiveness teaching and also a workbook written by my friend Jenny Thornburg, if you want some tools to help you! Let me know, and I can get it to you… Thank you again for your honesty here. I hope this helps. Susan

  2. such a rampant issue. such possibilities you bring up to deal with it. exciting, even.
    my anger is at myself for not being able to GET ANGRY. now what’s THAT about?
    i want to make peace. i avoid all anger. this must be unhealthy, too!
    i am probably in massive denial somewhere….
    the dialogue between you and nicola is a whole teaching.
    thank you both for sharing your hearts.
    suzee B

  3. I’m close to someone with a monster anger that has always intimidated and confused me. Recently I got a peek behind the curtain and became certain his anger is the only way he knows how to express pain and need. He needs but has never learned to ask. Therefore he does not receive. That hurts, but he has not learned a safe way to express pain. However, Anger he knows. Anger he can do, which takes him farther from having his need met. More confusion. Now real anger: what kind of universe am I stuck in? So he shouts and the world shrinks away.

    I believe God gave this glimpse so I can quit being repelled by his anger and show empathy. I’m grateful for this different view of my friend, and doubly grateful for the opportunity to respond to him and his unexpressed, unmet needs.

    • Beware the nurturing instinct that does not want to confront. Anger is something that grows. Unacceptable behavior warrants boundaries. My thoughts.

  4. The idea that anger is a form of self-preservation definitely rings true for me. I was already aware that I have a lot of stuffed anger, usually stirred up by innocent inanimate objects! I was also a compliant child, and once you add in the dysfunction, alcoholism and abuse in our family, there was a lot to protect and preserve myself from. It makes a lot of sense!

  5. I too deal with anger. I mostly was a compliant child, afraid to do anything wrong/bad. My anger bothers me very much. Your reply to Nicola was really interesting. Especially how I view God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I attended one of your workshops on forgiveness and the Forgiveness Handbook by J Thornburg. I just looked and found the handbook and 8 page handout you mentioned in reply to Nicola. I’m glad I found them!! Thank you for your blogs each Sunday – I look forward to them.