Thursday, September 8, 2011

Anger


“My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20)

When high carbon steel is treated for making tools, it is both hardened and tempered in a multistep process. The steel is hardened against wear, such as the tip of a screw driver, by heating and quick cooling. The problem is that while hard, the tip is brittle. The screwdriver tip is then reheated and allowed to cool at a slower rate to temper it so that it is not brittle.

When we become angry, it is called losing our temper. Like steel our temper is that quality which makes us strong but not brittle. For me, there is something about love which makes me see things so much differently and in a less threatening way. Love is the virtuous temper in temperament. Anger is that which distorts my thinking so much that rational thought or speech escapes me.  It is as if the pilot light is always lit on my anger too. It is one of my primary faults and even at a lower temperature, sarcasm and impatience flows. Being cut off in traffic is a quick source of anger for me but less likely if I have allowed plenty of time to get to my destination.

Is there righteous anger? Yes, Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple and there is no doubt he was angry when he did it. It was described as zeal for his father’s house. When we see an injustice, anger may motivate the righting of a wrong. We must be careful not to become angry on behalf of someone who does not see themselves threatened or angry. It would be a signal that we too easily look for opportunities to be angry.Are we putting ourselves in situations that lead to resentment simply because we refuse to construct personal boundaries? Are we trying to prove to ourselves that others are not trustworthy?

I honestly believe that anger is a symptom of a deeper problem of fear and fear is a response to an even more basic problem of mistrust. Jesus said we should be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Wisdom and innocence for me translate to trust with discernment. This is not being gullible and easily taken in. As I reflect on this, the roots of anger can be deep within the individual. Some have been deeply disappointed in a period of life when they were totally dependent on others. This is an emotional bruising and makes it difficult for some Christians to trust even God. It is the theological virtue of love that can mend this torn fabric of trust. A failure to trust is a failure to love.

“There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in punishment.” (1 John 4:18)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)  

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