Overcoming the Outlet Obstacle

With tragic crimes against humanity constantly taking place today, the reporters typically broadcast this phrase in the breaking news: “Investigators are still searching for a motive.” This is because a society wants a clear motive so we feel we have been given a reason for the unreasonable, we have something to point to and blame for something senseless. That is just human nature.

But there is a deeper truth here that we can all apply to our own lives. The key word is not “motive” but “outlet.” Often horrible motives are first catalyzed by a lack of outlet. Anytime anyone acts out on anything, spanning from sheer evil to any negative behavior, you can usually trace back to some emotion that built up and could find no way out. That’s not an excuse for anyone but it is always a reason. It’s a “why.”

Consider this on the small scale: We are upset about something in our life. We don’t know what to do about it. The longer the problem exists, the more we struggle. The more we struggle, the more the frustration grows and the more energy we pour into thinking about the problem. No answer means getting no help which means the pressure builds where an outlet is needed.

Then we are in traffic, someone pulls in front of us, and in a heartbeat, we are honking and pointing at them with the wrong finger. As our brain reengages, we are surprised at our response. And then we realize—what just happened has nothing to do with driving but an issue with no outlet.

We are in a long line at a customer service desk to make a return. The longer it takes, the more impatient we get. We don’t realize what is building. Finally, it’s our turn. But there’s a problem. The receipt date is outside the allotted window. Our face turns red, we get sarcastic, and our tongue goes into overdrive. The little 110-pound girl with the vest starts to re-think her career decision because of people like us. Outside in our car, we realize it wasn’t about the $10 return but about a totally different issue with no outlet.

This happens to us as humans all the time on so many levels. But the longer an unresolved issue remains, the more dangerous it gets. I have a counselor friend who always says, “God puts breakers in our lives that throw so we won’t burn the house down. So don’t ignore the breakers.” He also uses the analogy of trying to hold a beach ball underwater—no matter how hard you try, it’s going to eventually wear you out and pop up in your face.

As we read the constant horrific headlines, let us be reminded that we must be people who keep our forgiveness list short, who constantly hand our burdens over to Christ, and take the outlets He offers us. Or one day something might escalate and we become someone we never planned on becoming. Because that happens all the time. Just look at the news.

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. —Ephesians 4:26-30 NLT


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