All We Are Saying is Give Anger a Chance
Anger troubles us. From the seismic tremors of irritation to the volcanic explosions of rage anger in its various forms feels threatening. It is a difficult, uncomfortable and unpleasant emotion and when it grabs hold of us then it usually means that something in our life has gone seriously wrong. Who in their right mind would want to be angry?
Among Christians anger is almost always frowned at: if we are angry then we are not being like Jesus. It is as though the gospels portray a Christ who always had a smile on his face and a pleasant word to say to everyone no matter what; as though he never trashed the market stalls in the temple, or put the self-righteous, spiritual abusers of his day in their place. And so anger must be kept out of our churches in favour of niceness, no matter how inauthentic.
Another reason why we don’t approve of our own anger is that very often we struggle to know what to do with it. When we were children we would express our sense of being wronged through trying to scream or punch the world into submission. But we quickly learned that these responses were unacceptable, so what do we do with it now we are adults? Lacking an answer to this question we choose to suppress our frustration and our rage. Anger has become the neglected emotion.
It is never seen as a goal of human development. In considering the kind of people we want to be, how many of us would say that we wish to be angry people? Without a doubt we would all insert ‘loving’, ‘kind’, truthful’ into the column marked ‘Character ambitions’, but how many of us would place ‘angry’ in that same column, even though there is so much in the world to be angry about?
Anger is a four letter word for Christians and this, to my mind, shows just how emotionally innumerate the church is.
God is described as an angry God, and not just in the Old Testament. In Jesus’ anger we are shown that for God this emotion is vital in order to bring about the change that he wants in this world. Would the cross had happened unless God was passionate about the need to transform this world? And this is our pointer to the importance of our own anger: it’s all about change. It’s the source of our energy to put a stop to unfairness and injustice and to reshape relationships and communities for the better.
But just as the systems, situations, dynamics and relationships we may want to change are not all equally serious or unjust so anger itself does not come in one shade of murderous red. When we speak of anger we are talking about a spectrum of emotions. These range from mildly irritated through frustration, irritation and pique all the way to murderous rage. Anger offers us vast box of tools to revolutionise and to fine-tune our world.
Our capacity to be angry is a gift; a gift that promises personal change and growth but that also projects us into the centre of a world in need of justice. Anger enables us not only to identify injustice and wrong, but to experience them, to feel their pain and so to summon the vitality to act. Unless we are indifferent to injustice we must embrace anger. By allowing ourselves to feel its tectonic energies and learning to manage these we are taking an important step towards fulfilling our commission to subdue the earth.