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On Anger

I was talking with one of my brothers last night and he said to me,
“You know, it seems to me that in your writing a lot of anger comes through. It seems that in your writing I see a lot more of your 'righteous rage' than of your love and grieving… But when I talk with you, when I see you, I never see any anger, only the other side, the love and the broken-heartedness.”
Now there was nothing negative in what he said, he was raising it more as a question or a neutral observation, and even said that maybe it was just in response to the recent entry on Psalm 137. But it's gotten me to thinking…
I think that love and grief and anger are often deeply intertwined.
The thing is this is a journal. Journals tend to reveal internal struggles that never surface. When faced with injustices, especially when one sees one's loved ones abused or worse, rage is a feeling that naturally flows out of love. However, rage is not the feeling that conquers because, ultimately, love means being able to love both the oppressor and the oppressed, even it if that means standing in opposition to the oppressor. You do so not because you hate them but because you recognize that they too have been dehumanized by the acts of violence they have performed. Love desires to break cycles of violence, of sin, and of death, not further exacerbate them. Therefore, although there are times when I write angry words, I believe a grieving love wins out every time because I have never resorted to violent praxis. Nor have I lost hope. It is this oft neglected hope that enables us to continue in love.
Anger is often the first gut-reaction that love produces, hatred and violence do not have to be a part of it. They only become so when we give in to the negative side of anger. As Paul says, “be angry but do not sin”. I find my rage always gives way to tears. If that is not more fully expressed in my journals it is because it is hard to write of grief without sounding melodramatic. I like to think it does, however, fully express itself in my living.

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  1. “Anger is often the first gut-reaction that love produces…”
    Respectfully, I really disagree with this statement. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love “is not easily angered.”

  2. I think you may be confusing the context of 1 Cor. 13 with what I’m talking about here.
    Paul has dedicated a large section of this letter to exhorting his church at Corinth to get along with each other. They are deeply divided (actually pretty screwed-up in a lot of ways) and so Paul devotes chapters 12-14 to encouraging order, unity and love within the body. Now, I’d be curious to see what translation you’re working out of, the NASB, the most word-for-word english translation, does not use the word anger in this passage, although in v5 (not v4) it says that love is not provoked. The language of provocation is a lot more active than language of anger which is a lot more emotional. Understand the difference?
    Semantics aside let’s assume Paul means something like “love is not easily angered”. Well, within the context of a body that is divided and constantly fighting with each other this statement would be a call for everybody to start getting along already!
    However, this passage does not address situations like the ones I’m thinking of where loved ones are raped, abandoned, prostituted, etc. Within this context I think it is appropriate to speak of being angered. Not only is anger a response of love but it is also the way God is often shown responding. Because his loved ones are being broken he is enraged yet his rage is always an expression of his grief. I am basing my suggestion on what to do with anger in this entry upon the way God seems to handle his anger in the Bible.
    So, within the context of petty squabbling that destroys community, yes, we need to avoid anger. However, within the context of oppression and grave injustice anger is a natural (and appropriate) reaction of God’s suffering love, and also of ours.

  3. I agree that anger may arise due to love. I agree that anger is not wrong itself, and that our God of Love can be angry. You also have a good point about the context of the passage that I quoted.
    I still respectfully maintain that anger should not be the “first gut-reaction” that love shows. Anger may come due to love, but only as a last resort. As the following link quickly shows, God is “slow to anger.” This was my point, and I suggest that quick anger may not be Godly anger.

  4. I hope it is okay for me to jump into your discussion. I have a few things I would like to say. Take them for whatever they’re are worth…
    I wonder how anger could not be a gut-reaction? The first reaction, really, when faced with the hells that we experience in our lives and the hell that we see others go through. My anger arises out of hate. Pure hate. Hate for the evil that people suffer through. To be honest, I often feel I’m driven strongly by this hate of evil in what I do. It is gut-reaction hate. I see things that make me want to vomit.
    The other thing is that I do express this anger. I fully express it in my deep desire to love people, to listen to people and to take on injustice. I want to make things right.
    And the other thing is as I am beginning to know people who have been victims of violent crimes I am learning that anger is not only often the first thing that people feel but also something that must be expressed. It is a deep human need to be vindicated. Now I’m not talking violent vindication. People need answers to questions they have. People need to recover order to their lives and need to feel in control of their lives. Expressing anger is a step for people to retool their lives. Thus it is a step towards making things right. A step towards justice.
    Sorry, I guess this may come across a little angry…but part of this getting to know victims of violent crimes I am learning that Christians have put up walls and hindrances to their healing processes. I am not suggesting and would never assume that whoever is writing the JAG comments is one of these Christians. The ways that Christians have put up walls is by telling victims to not be angry, but instead to forgive, forgive and forgive. I am not opposed to forgiveness. In fact forgiveness often helps people regain order and autonomy in their lives (as well as giving life to those who have caused the hurt). However, forgiveness, in many cases is very much a process of which expressing anger is a part.