How is that for a heretical question? Actually, I have discovered there are a lot of good things about anger…sort of, within some boundaries of course.
One of the good things about anger is the same as the good thing about pain, a large area of redness on your body, or a fever. They are symptoms of a bigger problem.
Just like these other problems, anger can be a symptom that causes us to get help for a bigger problem.
Just as pain, bleeding, or a large area of redness will send us to the doctor to find out the underlying problem, so anger should push us to find out what is at the root of the problem.
Yes, we like to think the problem is our kids or our spouse, or that really vague one–stress! But of course the problem is much deeper than that! Depending on the practices in our family of origin, our tendency is usually to go one of two ways with anger.
We either attack the other person with whom we are angry…or we run the other way and hide out, stuffing our anger in the process. Aspects of this latter way of handling anger are blaming, hiding out and even trying to pretend that we aren’t angry, and if we’re really good at stuffing our anger?
The result may be that we find ourselves suffering from physical symptoms and/or depression.
Why would we want to do that to ourselves?
Obviously, we’re not always conscious of what we’re doing at the time.
There are often some other things at play when we are angry. We have the sense that we are being disrespected…sometimes. How often, as parent of a teenager, or as a spouse, is something that is deeply meaningful about you stomped on, mistreated or patronized?
How do you feel when that happens?
No, I didn’t ask how should you feel, I asked how DO you feel? Honestly?
It feels bad doesn’t it. Yes, sometimes we do cry, but often, we get very angry, lividly angry! We defend ourselves and our choice. If we’re in a place where we think it’s somewhat safe, we let off the lid and out pours anger and venom! EEK! …or go inward and have a pity party with our drug of choice…and it isn’t always a literal drug.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesian 4:31-32
Before you get upset to be smacked with Scripture, stop like I have to often…too often, in fact. Think through/pray about what is happening. When we get overwhelmed with anger or its twin resentment, we need more than a stiff upper lip.
I love how this passage reminds us of things that need to be removed from our lives, but also things to add: kindness, tenderheartedness, and especially forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness that Christ gave to us…mixed with grace, mercy, and love.
Of course, it’s not something WE can do on our own. Once again, we must turn to Christ. We don’t have the resources on our own. But this verse gives an indication of the direction GOD will be moving us.
It won’t really be in the direction of introspection, self-justifiction, explosions or resentment. It will be in the direction of kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness…and moving toward a relationship with the other person, not away from them. That is what Christ came to do. Reconcile the world to Himself…and in so doing, reconcile us to one another as well.
May GOD grant us the grace we need to love and forgive one another.