Are You Out of Control?

I was on my way from Lincoln to Omaha to catch a plane to Dallas to speak to a group of pastors on ways they could strengthen their counseling skills and help their people more effectively deal with their emotions. On my way out of Lincoln I was slowed down at three different times by farmers driving tractors loaded with bales of hay pulling out on to the road going about five miles an hour. I was frustrated and a little concerned about being able to make my flight, but I knew I could make good time on Interstate 80.

Well, I did make good time, until I got into Omaha. There was massive road construction going on, and at that point I felt my frustration and anxiety increase. I knew that if I stayed on the interstate I’d miss my flight, so I decided to take a short-cut across town. Unfortunately my short-cut didn’t turn out to be short. I made several wrong turns. Construction forced me onto some one-way streets that took me in the wrong direction. But finally I knew where I was, found the street I was looking for, and calculated that if the lights went my way I had just enough time to make it to the airport.

At that very moment a large moving van pulled out of an alley and stopped in the middle of the street blocking traffic. It was a one-way street and there were cars behind me, so I couldn’t turn around. All I could do was sit and wait. Up until that point I had done a fairly good job of managing my anxiety and frustration, but that was the last straw.

I lost it. In addition to hitting the steering wheel and honking the horn I found myself saying things to the driver of the moving van (that I knew he couldn’t hear), my face got red, my respiration increased, I could feel my heart pounding, my hands became sweaty, and I felt like I could explode.

After a couple of minutes I realized that I couldn’t do anything about my situation. Allowing myself to stay in a frustrated frenzy wasn’t changing anything for the better. It was only making things worse. Suddenly I realized how immature and ridiculous I was acting. I thought to myself, What if the men and women I’ll be speaking to in Dallas could see me now?

I arrived at the airport five minutes before the plane was scheduled to leave. As I hurriedly checked in my luggage and asked for the gate assignment, the sky cap informed me that the plane had some mechanical problems in Chicago and would be two hours late. Immediately I felt a sense of relief mixed with humiliation. I was relieved that I would not miss my flight and humiliated at the immature and irresponsible way I had allowed several different frustrations to control my emotions and lead to an out-of-control anger response that I’m glad only the Lord was witness to.

Without a doubt frustration is the number one source of anger in most men and possibly women. Webster defines frustrate as “to balk or defeat in an endeavor, to induce feelings of discouragement in, to make ineffectual; bring to nothing nagging daily cares that frustrate a man’s aspirations.”

Numerous sources of frustration appear in life. Most of them are cause by blocked goals and desires or unmet needs and expectations. Frustrations are those seemingly little things that, if they happen with enough frequency or at the wrong time, can become big things. Yet they need not be that way, as Hauck points out:

Millions of frustrations are far more easily tolerated than we usually think. Children not finishing their dinner is not an awful frustration, just the waste of a few cents. If a few cents bothers you, put the plate in the refrigerator until later. A person swerving in front of you in traffic is not doing something that calls for a nuclear explosion. It isn’t awful to have someone honking his horn impolitely behind you—it’s only slightly annoying. Not getting your raise can hurt your pocketbook, but not you—unless you let it. Frustrations are not usually earth-shaking to begin with; they can be tolerated quite nicely if we make the effort. Secondly, frustrations, even if they are severe, don’t have to lead to disturbances unless we allow them to.

When was the last time you were really frustrated? Can you remember the source of your frustration? Was it something big or was it a series of comparatively small and insignificant events? How often do you experience frustration? What do you do when you get frustrated? How do you react? Are your reactions usually healthy or unhealthy? Did your mom or dad react to frustration in similar ways? How would you like to react?