I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start – Chakotay to Janeway
I have a small anger management issue and a little bit of a fiery temper. I got it from my mum, who got it from her dad, who probably got it from one of his parents. Anger and passion often go hand in hand and sometimes my passion over flows, but it’s not usually a problem. Anger on the other hand, for me, is a bigger issue.
Not long ago, I got a phone call from my sister and she was in bits; she was crying so much that she struggled to get her words out. Our step mum had said some very upsetting things to her in a phone call, and it was threatening our relationship with our Dad. When he was alive, my sister and I weren’t allowed to see our Grandad for a number of years due to family issues, and it was this action that caused a similar threat to that relationship too. I’ve never had the best relationship with my step mum and I was afraid that she would try to come between Dad and us. So when I received this phone call from my sister confirming my fears, all my sense of restraint went out of the window. I didn’t care about being meek and mild, I wanted to show her that I didn’t bluff when I said I would mow through her if she ever got between our relationship with Dad.
Thing is, I had absolutely no idea what I would do. I wouldn’t hit her, and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t because she was so far away. All I had was a phone and a determination to make sure my Dad knew what was going on. It was a stereotypical anger of threats of physical violence, but nothing was really going to happen. I was all bark and no bite. But the anger began to affect everything else in my life – the smallest of things began to wind me up and I reacted more harshly than I intended. It was impacting everything including my decision making. I was getting irritated (and worse) much quicker than usual; it took me longer to calm down. It had impacted me heavily and I couldn’t shake it. What I didn’t do is pray about the situation – not pray that God would take my anger away, but that he would help me channel it better. I was right to be angry about the situation, my sister was hurt and if that doesn’t make me, as her brother, angry, then what will? My reactions regarding threats etc were absolutely wrong; they were motivated by a desire for retribution. Some would tell me that this is due to some unrepentant sin, but I just don’t see it like that.
We need to get angry at things sometimes. The same day all of this happened, a somewhat vile and reprehensible article about the LGBT community and gag reflexes appeared on The Gospel Coalition website. Some more very un-Christian thoughts went through my head about this piece and the so-called apology/clarification didn’t help much (it’s partly why I haven’t commented about it until now). There has been some excellent responses to that article, it made people angry and they responded. It is surely right to be angry at the marginalization and persecution of people because of their sexuality. It is surely right to be angry that people are dying of poverty, that people are homeless. Being angry is more likely to do something about it than simply being mildly annoyed. “Oh but Jesus was meek and mild” Was he heck!! He was in the faces of the religious establishment, he stormed into the temple and drove everyone out, he didn’t suffer fools lightly and told it how he saw it. What he didn’t do though was resort to violence or threats. He wasn’t vengeful, but to say he never got angry would be to completely ignore what he did or why he came to the earth. God is angry at the situation of the world, angry enough that he sent his own Son to sort it out. Not out of punishment or to unleash his wrath, but to restore the world and solve the problem. For a more thorough explanation of this, I recommend reading Derek Floods book ‘Healing the Gospel’.
There’s a difference between anger and wrath; between a desire to solve a problem and a desire to hurt those responsible for it. Anger and passion are natural human emotions given to us by God. Like reason and intellect, I doubt he intends for us to forgo their use. A philosopher a long long time ago once said “Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” and many still see the link between one and the other. It doesn’t have to be that way and Jesus has shown us that it needn’t be. Anger in itself is not wrong, it just depends on how you use it, and whether you let it take over you. Yes, this does sound like the Hulk (which was possibly designed as a metaphor for this stuff anyway), but even that showed if you can focus your anger properly, you can save the world.
So, it’s not the emotion of anger that’s bad, it’s how we use it. Channeling anger in a way that provokes, accuses, or humiliates people is wrong – this is not what God intended when he created this emotion. Getting passionate about causes that are close to our hearts, is however, completely OK. As you may have gathered whilst reading this, I am fiercely loyal, especially towards my family and to those I love. On the day of the incident with my step mum, my loyalties came into play, but were overcome by feelings of intense anger, and my morals and intentions were swept aside. It’s easy to praise God when everything’s fine and dandy, but as soon as the boat started to rock, instead of looking to the heavens, I cowered in the corner waiting for the storm to pass, and lashed out at anyone who tried to calm me down.
Guess the learning is all a part of being human.
First published 4th September 2013