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17th February: Righteous Anger... or is it? (1)

But God said to Jonah, `Do you do well to be angry?' Jonah 4:9

A few weeks ago I became demonstrably angry with two patients in as many days (very unusual for me!), but both of these incidents taught me some valuable lessons.

I was angry with the first patient before I had even set eyes on him! It was a weekend, and I was requested to do a home visit way out in the countryside many miles from the town in which I practise. For weeks I had been trying to convince the other partners that we should have all outlying patients removed from our list, and nothing had been done about it; and now, here was yet another such patient who couldn't get to the surgery.

I was fuming through every mile of the narrow country lanes; and when I finally reached the village, I had no map of the area and twice had to stop in the biting January wind to ask for further directions. When I eventually found the house, I was in no fit state to have compassion on the sick! A cursory history and examination was followed by a strong recommendation that since the patient was so seriously ill he should change his doctor to someone more local. This was greeted with considerable hostility, as well it might for, unknown to me, he had been a patient of the practice for 22 years before recently moving out of town. I quickly stifled his objections, however, by telling him I had only his best interests at heart. But even as I said it, the Spirit of God pricked my conscience saying, `Really it's your own best interests you have at heart. You are resentful that you had to drive such a long way and you will be late for lunch'.

My righteous indignation was exposed for what it actually was -- self-centredness -- and it had led to hypocrisy and lying to a patient.

Lord, save us from the prejudice that makes up its mind
before knowing the facts, and the hypocrisy that blames
other people and `takes it out' on them when the fault
is really our own. Give me more of the selfless love of
Jesus that gives others the benefit of the doubt and meets
their need at whatever inconvenience to myself.

Further reading: Jo 4:1-11.

TGS

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