His dark eyes glared, his face flushed, his breathing heavy. Agitated, he could barely sit still.

A teacher had brought him to my office, because she had caught him fighting with another student in the school hallway.

As he was given space to talk, his anger slowly began to diffuse. But throughout his tirade his focus remained directed towards the other student, casting full responsibility for the conflict and fight onto his shoulders.He kept insisting that it wasn’t his fault that he had lost his temper. Pointing his finger at the other student, he blamed him for his anger.

He also blamed his father. Claiming that he had inherited his temper from his father.

Once he was calm, we began to process what had happened. And as he became more open and receptive, one of the things we examined was his conviction that he had inherited his inability to control his anger.

I encouraged him to consider that loosing our tempers is not something that we genetically or biologically inherit from our parents.

That the only traits we do inherit are features such as our height and build or the color of our eyes and hair and skin.

And while it is not possible to inherit our parents’ behaviours, we do learn them.

Sometimes our parents verbally teach us things. And sometimes, our parents teach us things through their actions and the choices they make.

And when parents exhibit tempers and a loss of control, children watch, and they learn.

For when we hang out with angry people, hotheads, their “bad temper is contagious” and they can infect us. (Proverbs 22-24-25, The Message)

But, the good news is that these learned behaviours are different from the genetic traits we do inherit, in that it is possible for us to change them.

These inappropriate, harmful behaviours can be replaced with different, better ways of behaving. Affirmative and respectful ways to manage our emotions.

Understanding that behaviours are not inherited infuses hope and possibility into a family’s story and legacy. Introducing the possibility of being able to rewrite the family story, where anger can be controlled, even in the face of belittling and antagonism and rejection.

Our discussion stirred me to thinking about the inheritance I was leaving our three young sons. Reminding me that my legacy will not just be about what I have genetically passed on to them, but all that I bequeath to them through my words and actions and deeds.

It was a great reminder that my children are always observing me. And always learning from me. Not just through what I verbalize and teach, but also from my actions.

I do not want my legacy to be lost tempers, finger pointing, blaming others, and making excuses for my poor behaviour and choices. Or one comprised of holding tight to grievances and to anger and to a lack of forgiveness.

Instead, I pray that my legacy will be one of self-control, gentleness, kindness, strength, forgiveness and grace. Praying that I will role model, and teach, the better way.

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked up for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Being even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It is your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Colossians 3:12-14, The Message)




Five Minute Friday weekly prompt: EXCUSE


Photo Credit: Tanja Heffner, Alexander Mills, and Tyrell Charles from Unsplash