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April 8, 2014

Out of Aggression

Each year, anadromous fishes of several species (hickory shad, American shad, blueback herring, alewife, and striped bass) leave their ocean home and head up into the freshwater reaches of Atlantic coast rivers to spawn. This past Saturday afternoon, I had the privilege of being able to fish from the banks of the James River in downtown Richmond for the storied hickory shad. This was the first opportunity I had to fish for shad in the past couple of years. Fortunately, my buddy and I caught the tide change at just about the right time, and we were able to get into somewhat of a pattern of hooking these small yet fierce fighting tarpon-like creatures towards the end of our trip. I say hooking rather than catching, because I was having one heck of a time keeping them connected to my gold spoon all the way to the bank. But at any rate, anglers that have been able to experience the strong fight and acrobatic maneuvers of the shad species will know what I mean about needing to catch just one more...and maybe one more after that!

James 1:18-20 (NASB)
In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

There is a very interesting fact about the behavior of the hickory shad during these spring runs of which you may not be aware. Even though on some days anglers can be hooked up nearly every cast, and it seem as though there is a feeding frenzy taking place, the hickory shad is not actually hitting those lures out of hunger, rather they are striking out of aggression. They are not feeding, in fact, food is likely not even a consideration, as they ate plenty while out in the ocean prior to beginning their spawning runs. As a general rule, spawning fish are very aggressive toward other native resident fishes that coexist in those waters. The male and female shad will bite and strike at other fish to get them out of the way. They are striking them out of aggression and frustration, and to protect their eggs. While a predatory fish will strike the prey fish's head, the shad actually nips and snaps at the tail section of the fish or the lure. They are not trying to kill the intruding fish, instead, they are trying to show it merely who is boss (excerpts from Snowhite 2014).

Similar to that of the protective behavior of spawning shad in tidal freshwater rivers, how often do find yourself getting frustrated or irritated to the point that you lash out in aggressive tendencies to protect yourself or others, or just show another who is boss? Causes for reactions like this can include not getting one's way, rejection, fear of loss or the loss of something, feeling threatened or past hurts, and can result in behaviors such as rage, resentment or indignation. But unlike the temporary strategies of the shad in protecting its eggs, ongoing aggression and anger can have lasting effects on and in our lives if we don't deal with them properly (physical effects, unforgiveness, passive aggression and depression to name a few). Therefore, we need to learn how to handle our aggression and anger in ways such as owning up to it, identifying the source(s) so we don't misdirect our responses, dealing with it quickly (self-control), forgiving others just as God forgave us and learning to identify the things that cause us to get angry (excerpts from Stanley 2014). Rather than attempt to make these changes in our lives in our own knowledge, strength and ability, as Matthew Henry's Commentary concludes, it ought to be the renewing grace of God and the word of the gospel that teach us how to subdue this aggression and anger.

So, how about you - do you have something to learn, change or apply to your life based on the reactionary behaviors of the hickory shad? - GE

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