Question: How many of your best decisions have emerged from a fit of seething rage?

Last week, as I watched interviews with disgruntled BREXIT voters, a common theme emerged. Several had voted “Leave” as a way of expressing the anger of being left behind by their economy. They were upset, and perhaps for some good reasons.

Yet as the pound plummeted, markets dived, and the (potential) implications of the vote set in, some on the “winning” side expressed regret:

“It was simply a protest vote. I was angry. I felt like no one was listening, and I wanted to voice my frustration. I wish we could have a do-over.”

Comedians had a field day.

Despite the humor, this also brings up a serious point: Anger can be both warranted and dangerous. When we’re angry, we don’t think clearly. We throw off cost-benefit analysis, and sometimes, it comes back to bite us.

Thus the ancient words of Paul:

“In your anger, do not sin” (Eph. 4.26).

Or to paraphrase: “In your anger, don’t be stupid.”

WHY ANGER IS NEEDED

It is important, however, to note what Paul does not say. His command is not “Don’t be angry.”

Anger can be righteous and redemptive. Jesus got angry. And if things like hunger, racism, and gross incompetence don’t raise your ire, then there is something wrong with you.

When guided by the Spirit, anger can be the spark that lights the fuse of righteous action. Yet a controlled demolition of unjust structures is what’s needed, not a random bombing of anything in the vicinity. Anger (like TNT) is capable of both.

WHY ANGER IS NOT A VIRTUE

While anger jolts us out of apathy, it is not a virtue. If seen as one, then we end up assuming (wrongly) that the shrillest voice is that of wisdom. It is not.

Several commentators saw this phenomenon behind the rise of Donald Trump. While other candidates said: “I understand your anger,” Trump yelled “I am the angriest!” and then set out to show IN ALL CAPPS that he was the most fiery option on menu—a habanero amongst bell peppers; a boy amongst men. It worked. For awhile.

But few people enjoy an exclusive diet of habaneros for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are—how shall we put it—digestive repercussions. And the same is true with anger.

MY ANGER ISSUES

I wish I were immune from this.

I’m not.

This is “moving week” for us, which has involved one-hundred degree temps, inspectors who can find safety violations in a bar of soap, a moving company that suddenly does not have the truck we “reserved” (word used loosely), a scheduling mistake by PSO that delayed necessary repairs, and an electrician who turned out not to be licensed, leaving us with an expensive job that the city would not approve. Add to this three small children, a funeral message, a Sunday sermon, and (oh yeah) actually moving, and it was a volatile cocktail.[1]

All this came to a head as I worked to remove belongings from an attic that made Dante’s Inferno seem like a crisp fall day. “Why do we even have this [stuff]!?” I fumed. And instead of carrying said belongings down the stairs, I began to launch them through the attic opening as if I were manning the bomb bay in an old-time Flying Fortress. To complete the metaphor, several exploded.

It felt really good. Until I had to clean it up.

Sic semper ira.

Thus always with anger.

CONCLUSION

 

In sum, this post is simply a reiteration of the apostle Paul, said mostly to myself.

“In your anger, do not sin.” Also:

Realize that some things are not worth getting angry about.

Take a deep breath.

Don’t take things out on innocent bystanders.

And in your anger, don’t make a mess that takes far longer to cleanup than the one you were angry about in the first place.

Now, off to move more boxes…

 


 

[1] In truth, all these problems eventually worked out better than I could have hoped for. But in the moment, things were frustrating.

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