The world has a lot of anger, today. Fueled by communication methods that provide the ability to attack with anonymity, and the presence of external forces (both political and spiritual) that drive conflict, a lot of people are outraged. If you don’t believe me, or don’t agree with me in this claim, please don’t get angry!
Anger has a role in life: Appropriately-directed anger has led to positive changes throughout history, when patriots and activists stood up for what was right, or when advocates defended the powerless against oppression. Jesus got angry, and His clearing of the temple (John 2:13-17), which may have been the most dramatic, wasn’t the only example. There are things that justify anger.
However, as my 10-year-old suggested recently, it is important to understand “righteous anger”. Some groups are “outraged” when their favorite actor or actress is cut from a television series. Other groups are furious that their favorite product has been discontinued at the store, or when their preferred dish is no longer offered at their favorite restaurant. Imagine the hostility created when said store or restaurant goes out of business entirely!
Don’t get me wrong – things like that bug me, too. But, while they may trigger an opportunity to intervene (through a polite letter or e-mail1), they really aren’t worth firing up our “anger engine” over. And, anger without the right direction often leads to hate, harm, and hostility. There’s no good that comes of that, except perhaps to serve as an example to others of how not to handle difficult situations.
The writer of this proverb described this pretty graphically:
For the churning of milk produces butter,
And pressing the nose brings forth blood;
So the churning of anger produces strife.
Proverbs 30:33 NASB
Instead of getting angry at the drop of a hat (unless maybe it was your best hat, and your buddy knocked it off on purpose…for the tenth time), the book of James gives us some helpful advice:
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.
James 1:19-20 NASB
(See also Proverbs 15:18.)
Sometimes, “slow to anger” may mean taking a 10-count. Other times, it might mean you need to step outside and walk around the block. Maybe the really big issues need you to set them aside for a day or two, and sleep on it.
So, the next time you feel your “anger meter” starting to increase, let off some steam in a safe manner, and take a little time to make sure that you’re angry about something that justifies your anger. Ask God to show you if this is something that makes Him angry. Check your motives to see if an actual evil has taken place, or if you’re just angry because your pride or ego was bruised.
If it’s temporary or pointless, let it go. However, if you are called to do some real good in the matter, take all of that energy from righteous anger, and apply it to making a change in your world. The logical result of righteous anger will almost certainly take more work than yelling, door-slamming, or stomping out of a room2, and it will cost you more than just posting an angry comment online. But, in the end, turning righteous anger into actual “right-ness” is often the right choice to make.
- My wife once wrote a polite note about the defective caps on the local grocery store’s milk cartons. Not finding an e-mail address for the store, she found the e-mail of the owner himself, and sent her concerns to him. He wrote back to her directly, with an equal level of courtesy, and – sure enough – the offending cartons were eventually replaced. ↩
- If you must stomp out of a room, be sure that you have your keys and cell phone with you when you do so. You do not want to have to slink back to get them, later! ↩