Tuesday, March 3, 2009


A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Pr 29:11

Their mother presented with a glioblastoma and was incoherent. Her tumor extended across the midline and, though she had been receiving high dose steroids for two days, she had not improved. Dr. James was trying to explain to the family that further treatment was futile. He was late for his son’s baseball game and had left home that morning with his wife arguing about his failure to spend time with their children. He had exploded and slammed the door as he left.
He was now trying to extract a decision to move the patient to Hospice care but the family continued with question after question that avoided the key issue. Unimportant question after unimportant question, until finally Dr. James raised his voice and said, “I’ve told you everything you need to know to make a decision. Now tell me what you want to do or get another doctor!” The family was devastated and filed a complaint with the hospital administration.

Anger is a natural response to stress and is one of the most destructive forces that can engulf us as doctors. How do we deal with it when it invades our lives? Let me lay out five suggestions:

1. Recognize the anger: examine our hearts regularly and see if there is anger in our thoughts, words or actions. We cannot recover unless we are aware.
2. Rationalize the anger: When anger is irrational, it bangs around like a loose cannon and hurts people who have nothing to do with its cause. When anger arises, we need to examine the situation and understand the cause.
3. Relinquish our rights: Anger usually comes because we are denied a privilege from life that we think we have a right to expect, like concurrently having time to spend with the ones we love and having time to treat all the patients we want. Though such rights may seem legitimate, we know that life is not fair; and more than that, we as Christians have surrendered our rights to the Christ who surrendered his rights for our redemption. He asks us to do the same. (Php 2:5-11)
4. Relate the anger: Once we understand the source of the anger and have given up our right to a world free from pain, we need to share our anger and its cause with someone we love, offer the anger to God, and apologize to any who might have been hurt by our actions.
5. Release the anger: no one is hurt by our anger more than ourselves and those we love. Eventually, after the steps above, we need to let it go, to hand it to our Creator so that he may transform it into good.

Dear God,
Sometimes it all builds up inside. Please let me take the steps to hand it over to you, so that I may not hurt the ones you love.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these great posts. I'm always encouraged by them.