Lessons from Daniel Tiger: What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?

DanielTigerWe all get made at times. Daniel and his friends have a hard time dealing with anger in an episode at the music store. They don’t always get a turn right when they want it, and the adults (who are always wonderfully on the same page with each other) advise the kids to “take a deep breath, and count to four.” At no point do the grown-ups invalidate the kids’ feelings. They don’t tell Daniel and friends to just get over it. They acknowledge and respect their kids’ feelings and give them a coping mechanism to help. It’s reminiscent of the old Mr. Rogers song What Do You Do WIth the Mad That You Feel? where he suggests positive outlets for negative feelings.

I’ve noticed that we Christians have a hard time with anger. On the one hand, I’ve known many Christians who just seem angry at the world in general. They harbor negative attitudes and will then lash out at seemingly small things. A songleader pitched a song too high. There are some wrappers in a pew. Someone took a verse out of context. Whatever it is, that becomes the target, and whoever is responsible for the misstep had better watch out. In this situation, it’s wise to remember Proverbs 19:11: “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Also James 1:19-20: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” We cannot let anger define us, and we have to put away angry attitudes, so we can focus on the hope before us.

On the other hand, it’s just as important that we don’t completely repress our angry feelings. It’s possible to be angry without sinning. Otherwise how could Paul write, “Be angry and do not sin,” in Ephesians 4:26? It’s not that we feel angry at times that defines us; it’s how we deal with those emotions. In Mark 3:4-5, Jesus is angry at a group in a synagogue, upset that they will not answer a serious question of His about doing good on the Sabbath. He does not rail at them however. He does not degrade them or put them down. Instead, He makes His point by healing a man with a withered hand. He teaches His lesson through an act of mercy that I’m sure left the others feeling slightly abashed, and it was a more effective lesson than had Jesus berated them or vented His frustrations.

Another time, Jesus does show His anger when He finds that people are profiteering in God’s temple. The key here is wisdom. In Jesus’ entire ministry, we only have one recorded instance of Jesus “losing His temper”. Three years, one outburst. I’m not inclined to believe that the one recorded instance was a result of Jesus losing control either. I’m sure His display of anger was was very intentional and all the more effective because of the peace and calm He wore the vast majority of the time. His anger was effective because its evidence was rare. With Jesus, wisdom comes before anger. Can I say the same about me? Do I let Christian conduct and wisdom help me manage, overcome, or express my anger in healthy ways?

In Mr. Rogers’ song, he sings about how we cope with anger in terms of maturity.

I can stop when I want to

Can stop when I wish.

I can stop, stop, stop any time.

And what a good feeling to feel like this

And know that the feeling is really mine.

Know that there’s something deep inside

That helps us become what we can.

For a girl can be someday a woman

And a boy can be someday a man.

How we deal with angry feelings speaks as much to our spiritual maturity. It’s not inherently wrong to feel anger, and we should never discount those feelings in ourselves and others. (Although it is worth asking myself, at times, if I am getting angry over something that really matters, or if I am letting worldly priorities inform my emotions.) It’s what we do with the anger. Is my response constructive or destructive? Am I furthering Christ’s work with the way I respond to anger, of am I placing stumbling blocks before myself and others? We have a Savior who is slow to anger and quick to love. We have a Savior who chooses grace and mercy over vindictiveness and retribution. Let’s be quick to follow His example, and always remember what Daniel Tiger says – “If you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”

Lessons from Daniel Tiger: Everyone Is Big Enough

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Daniel’s dad is building him a playhouse, and Daniel wants to help. He’s not big enough to use some of the tools, though, but Dad points out that their are other ways in which Daniel can help. After all, everyone is big enough to do something.

It seems so simple. Our family even sings it around our house whenever our daughter finds her own ways to be helpful. Of course everyone is big enough to do something, so why don’t we act that way with Christ’s work? In the church of Christ, I’ve developed pet peeves around the uses of “I can’t” and “you can’t”. That second statement gets especially under my skin. We limit how others and ourselves can contribute to the Lord’s work when we should all be helping each other get to Heaven. Remember Moses being called by God? He had several very good reasons for not being able to help, but God reminded Moses that all things are possible through Him. If someone as full of self-doubt as Moses can do God’s work, then surely I can too.

What about Peter? How much patience would a modern congregation have with him? How long before someone sat him down to tell him that he’s not ready to teach or lead worship? We see flaws in others’ lives, or we see them trip up with the word from time to time, and we’re too often quick to diminish their desire to serve rather than see these as opportunities to grow. Everyone can contribute in their own way. Isn’t that what passages like Ephesians 4:11 are about? And if someone is willing to serve in a given capacity, it’s not my place to say they can’t. Instead I should be doing everything I can to help them serve the best they can, and if they truly aren’t ready yet, then I should be helping them grow into readiness.

Then we’re doing God’s work together, building up instead of tearing down. We can all contribute. We just have to believe in ourselves and each other. All of us are big enough to serve. All of us are big enough to help. All of us are big enough to do something.

Lessons from Daniel Tiger

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Author Amy Hollingsworth wrote the following about Fred Rogers in her book The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers:

Every day he taught God’s message without preaching a word.

Fred Rogers is one of the very few celebrities in this world I still hold in high esteem. Whenever I’m down or frustrated, I watch an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. When I am angry at others, I watch interviews of him interacting with other adults. I try to channel his care and calmness in my classroom teaching. To me, he is one of the best examples we have had of Christian conduct in modern culture. While I understand we have God’s word to explain so much to us, Fred Rogers has had an effect on me in that I can see those teachings exemplified in the conduct of such a public figure.

Mr. Rogers took the moral of the good Samaritan parable – that we are all neighbors one to another – and turned it into a regular children’s show. Not only was he teaching children during his half-hour program, but he taught adults as well. He taught us how to be patient, how to listen, how to be both trusting and trustworthy. He imparted God’s message without so much as a scripture, all the time asking us to care for each other as neighbors. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Please won’t you be my neighbor? 

That legacy continues in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is one of the very few television shows my daughter gets to watch. (The other regular is Dinosaur Train, if you must know. Other than that, she occasionally watches YouTube videos of ballet and astronauts – separately. Okay, rabbit chase done.) And I have to say it is one of the most positive things on television today. Every episode demonstrates such care and kindness between the characters, it’s almost unbelievable. Every aspect of the show seems planned around providing the best example it can to children and parents.

Also, every episode features a short song snippet that gets repeated throughout the episode, reinforcing the lesson of the day. The characters may sing about taking turns, trying new things, sharing, helping, or dealing with anger. Over the next few posts, I want to take some of these songs and look at the lessons they teach and what we adults can learn from them in our Christian walks. In Matthew 18, Jesus says we should all become like little children, so I’m inviting you to join me over the next few weeks in shelving my jaded and sometimes frustrated adulthood and becoming more childlike. And perhaps some of these lessons from the Land of Make Believe will help us make a better reality for ourselves in this world.

Trolly, take us home!