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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is anger okay?

Since my long chat with God about how angry I was, I've felt quite liberated. I feel as though I've broken through a wall in our relationship. I really feel closer to Him and more able to hear His direction than ever before.

On a related note, I'm reading Body Clutter by Marla Cilley and Leanne Ely. One of the missions, or assignments, is to write down everyone with whom you are feeling angry and then tear it up. Because I had a two-year-old helper trying to find something to do at the time, I didn't get to the writing-down part, but I did take the time to really think about people in my past who still rub me the wrong way when I think about them. Once I accepted that my ill feelings were actual anger, I was able to let it go.

I have no problem saying I'm angry about strangers' behavior. I have no problem admitting when my husband or toddler makes me angry. Why can't I call it anger when it's a family member or friend? I can say they hurt my feelings. I can even tell them directly that they hurt my feelings, as one family member recently found out. Do I think it's wrong to be angry? Do I think I will be admitting something negative about myself if I acknowledge anger?

Especially for Christians, anger is considered something that you shouldn't allow.

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger...

But none of those tells us not to get angry. Also, God Himself gets angry when appropriate, but if we are to try to be like God, we should be slow to anger.

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...

Does that mean anger is wrong, or that we should make sure it is warranted?

I don't think anger is wrong. I think how we handle it makes all the difference. Admitting I'm angry is the final step in my understanding of many situations. If admitting anger makes me quicker to forgive, am I wrong to allow it? However, if we are slow to anger, we are allowing ourselves time to process the situation and possibly deal with it, as with a miscommunication. Also, we give ourselves time to listen to God and turn the situation around in a way that glorifies Him.

What if anger is warranted? Does that give us the right to act on it? I don't think so. Of course, sometimes action is required, like if we witness someone or something being abused. That doesn't mean that we go in guns a-blazin' and take out the bad guys, though. Maybe we interfere, if it's necessary, but then we should let God lead our actions and words. When it's personal hurt that fuels our anger, it's important to take as much time as needed to talk to God and fully understand the situation. God wants us to control our anger and act out of love.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

It's okay to ask for help, from God and from friends and family. The Duggars use a method they borrowed from a friend: when someone observes a family member getting fired up, they touch their arm to remind them to cool down. A kind, personal touch is a loving way of holding each other accountable for our anger.

Anger blinds us. (Have you ever heard of "white rage?") If we have a habit of getting angry, we don't often notice it creeping up on us, and it can sometimes creep very quickly! Since I have always had trouble with anger, maybe I'm afraid to admit it because that means I allow it, and then I lose control of myself. Maybe that's part of the reason I never felt comfortable even exercising the idea of being angry with God. I have enough self-control issues without throwing the angry-with-God log onto the fire.

That brings me back to the start of this article. Now I've seen how confessing anger can help me deal with it, whether that be reigning it in and reevaluating a situation or forgiving someone for the real reason I'm upset. I'm not generalizing all anger as acceptable, but I'm not generalizing it as taboo, either. God created us with the ability to get angry. God gets angry. God even acts out of anger when the situation calls for it (but note that it's His call!). Anger is part of our existence, and we should accept it and allow it, with God's help and guidance.

Here are more biblical perspectives on anger:
Ephesians 4:26,31
Colossians 3:8
I Timothy 2:8

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