Sinning Like a Christian // 06
Great thoughts on the last post, friends (here and on Facebook). I’d sum up the comments by saying we can’t deny our anger by withdrawing from real relationships, and we can’t ignore where our anger takes us (good or bad). Here are five of my thoughts (with Willimon’s help) on when anger is destructive:
First, I’d say anger is bad when it’s unjustified. For instance, when we’re angry with a coworker for slandering us when in fact they didn’t slander us. Or with people from other countries for wanting to kill our kids when in fact they want nothing of the sort. The remedy for this is simple – discover the truth about those with whom you are angry. If your anger isn’t based on truth, let it go.
Second, I’d say anger is bad when it treats minor wrongs as major offenses. We’ve all seen people blow up on cashiers at Wal-Mart, and I’d say that most of the time the misdeed doesn’t merit the vicious diatribe elicited. Not only is it embarrassing for the person doing the blowing up, it’s a extreme picture of a common reality – small injustices are treated as capital crimes. Sometimes we just need not take ourselves so seriously that our being wronged seems so evil.
Third, I’d say anger is bad when it refuses to move toward forgiveness. Unforgiveness is a sin; in fact, it’s one of the gravest sins that we rarely talk about – at least Jesus certainly seems to think so (see Matthew 6.9-15). Notice, however, that I didn’t say anger that doesn’t immediately forgive. I’m not saying we shouldn’t immediately forgive, but the reality is that most of us have not been conformed enough to the image of Christ to do so. What we must all be held to account for is that our anger doesn’t preclude movement toward forgiveness.
Fourth, I’d say anger is bad when it becomes bitterness/resentment. When we don’t deal with our anger, it always turns into bitterness. Different ones of us are skilled to varying degrees at hiding our bitterness (often even from ourselves), but it remains nonetheless. This is often a result of (a) saying we’ve forgiven someone before we have actually done so, or, more often, (b) not realizing that forgiveness is an act requiring constant repetition (as we often say, a “process”).
Fifth, I’d say anger is bad when it becomes depression. Some kinds of depression are the result of anger turned inward – anger suppressed or inappropriately expressed. Not wanting to unleash our rage on the person who has wronged us (whether in reality or perception), we slowly and often unconsciously leak our rage onto ourselves.
What would you add to or take away from this list?