Author’s Note: These thoughts were originally expressed as part of a newsletter article in March of 2014. After a few conversations this week about politics (within and without the church), I think it apropos to revisit the issue of anger.
At 7:02 on Monday morning, I arrived at the prayer breakfast with my face flushed, heart pounding, and mind racing with justifications and rationalizations for why I had just yelled at a guy in a car next to me. (Well, I hadn’t really yelled, just . . . .raised my voice. . . . a lot.)
I was angry. I recognized the signs; been there before!
Revisiting what I know:
A few generally accepted facts about anger include:
- Anger knows no age barrier. I remember the first time my precious, innocent baby girl screwed her face up and bellowed out of unmistakable rage. I also witnessed a mini-tantrum when my 90 year old grandmother discovered her teeth had disappeared again from her nightstand!
- Anger is a neutral emotion. No sense feeling guilty about the anger itself; it is neither a good thing nor a bad thing; it is a natural response to stimulus; we get to choose what we do about it.
- Anger has a purpose. It alerts us to unresolved issues or problems that need our attention. Just like we have nerves in our hands to alert us to pain so we know to take action to alleviate the discomfort, so anger can be such an indicator.
- Anger varies in degree. It will range from mild annoyance to violent rage; it is to our benefit to learn to recognize it in all its forms.
From a Christian perspective:
- Anger can be used for evil. It can give power to the enemy. And in the hands of the enemy, it is a tool for destruction. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
- Anger can be used for good. In fact, this is always God’s purpose and intent. What the enemy intends for evil, God intends for our good. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
- Anger is powerful and incites others as well. It is potentially dangerous and deadly: God continually admonishes us to be slow to anger (see Prov. 14:19, 15:18, 16:32, 19:11, 29:11 James 1:19) One Scenario: Employer blows up at man, he then blows up at his wife, she at teenage son, teenage son at younger brother, younger brother kicks the dog, dog bites the cat, cat scratches the 3 year old, 3 year old rips Barbie doll’s head off!
Anger is a big deal, a powerful force. We get to choose how we direct that force when it is coming from within our own hearts and minds. And we get to choose how to respond to that force when it is directed at us. I think it was Victor Frankel who made the point that in the indignities of the concentration camps, the one thing that could never be taken away from you was your choice in how you respond, and your attitude under stress. I am inspired and motivated to submit my anger to the Lord and move in His Spirit in my own responses or the responses of others. And take to heart this quote from a Roman politician and general::
Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved. –Marcus Antonius
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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