December 15, 2017

It NEVER Helps

Anger (detail from Seven Deadly Sins), Bosch

By Chaplain Mike

…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:20, NASB)

In my experience, it never helps.

Anger never improves a situation. Anger doesn’t work. Anger always make things worse. And anger has a multitude of unwanted consequences besides. Anger does not enable us to take forward steps in our relationships. Instead, it sows seeds of fear, distrust, and animosity that take root quickly and become nigh impossible to dig out again. Anger hurts. Anger leaves marks. Anger expressed can accelerate rapidly to emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. Anger held within and allowed to simmer can lead to withdrawal, alienation, and neglect. Anger turned on oneself can spiral down into depression, self-hatred, self-destructive habits or even actual suicide.

According to Jesus, anger toward another is the emotional equivalent of murder.

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother,  ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Anger is the first condition of the human heart and experience that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount. Moses, the Lawgiver whose laws Jesus speaks of in this sermon, was kept from entering the Promised Land because of unbelief that exploded in anger. In the Torah, the first sin outside the Garden that Moses wrote about was Cain’s anger, which turned into the actual murder of his brother. When the Apostle Paul wrote lists of vices for the ethical formation of his congregations, anger and related faults are always listed prominently.

“…there is nothing that can be done with anger that cannot be done better without it.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 151)

One source that helps me meditate on the perils of anger is Dallas Willard’s discussion of the topic in his book, The Divine Conspiracy.

When we trace wrongdoing back to its roots in the human heart, we find that in the overwhelming number of cases it involves some form of anger. Close beside anger you will find its twin brother, contempt. Jesus’ understanding of them and their role in life becomes the basis of his strategy for establishing kingdom goodness. It is the elimination of anger and contempt that he presents as the first and fundamental step toward the rightness of the kingdom heart. (DC, 147)

Willard reminds us that the emotion of anger is a natural part of human life. It is a spontaneous response that arises within us when someone or something threatens us in some fashion. It alerts us to a person or obstacle that obstructs our way or our will. Anger is an alarm within that goes off, releasing energy that enables us to resist and/or fight back against the threat. It is part of our survival instinct, and in and of itself as a simple feeling, it is a normal and useful characteristic of being human.

However, in the sinful human heart, anger cannot exist without containing some element of malice—the desire to injure, harm, or punish the ones who cross us. This is one reason why anger need not be expressed to be hurtful. Even if I simply know that someone is angry with me, it causes me pain, because I sense that person is harboring some level of ill will toward me. To some extent, I am under attack, even if the angry one says or does nothing to act on her anger.

This is one reason I so regret now the times I was angry with my children. It pains me deeply to think how frightened and under attack they must have felt just to see dad’s furious face, even if I didn’t explode in a tirade. And if in my rage I acted out and caused a scene, it must have seemed to them like an overwhelming onslaught of malicious force. Kyrie eleison!

Anger, Albi St Cecile Cathedral

Dallas Willard also talks about the sinful tendency to indulge our anger. We can choose to hold on to this emotion, to become angry people, carrying “a supply of anger around” with us, ready to pull it out and wield it at any moment.

Why would anyone choose to do that? Because anger often works hand in hand with another deadly sin, Pride. In our self-righteous, self-centered hearts, we believe the universe should revolve around us, that all the breaks should go our way, that people should always agree with us, cooperate with us, coddle us. When my ego gets wounded, when my autonomy is constrained, or when my agenda gets challenged, I feel I have a right to be angry. After all, it is all about me, isn’t it?

One problem with living this way, of course, is that I am only one “sun” among many, and all of us think we are the centers of our own solar systems. If I, an egocentric sinner with a sense of privilege, get mad when one of these other egocentric sinners with a sense of privilege impedes my will, what do I expect in response from them? Anger begets anger begets anger. Is it any wonder we live in such a violent world?

Willard notes that many advocate a “righteous anger” as necessary to confront and overcome injustice in our world. However, where does this lead? Consider the ever-increasing polarization of American culture over the past generation. Proponents of “red state” positions speak with (self-)righteous indignation against “blue state” position supporters, and vice versa. Since each group perceives the other as a threat, advocating against what is “right” (in our eyes), both accomplish little more than raising the ire of the opposition and the temperature in the room. It’s a futile cycle.

Anger never helps. Never. I’m convinced of it.

So, Paul says it as simply as possible: “get rid of anger.” (Colossians 3:8).

Seven Deadly Sins (Anger), Callot

I know what some are going to say: wrath is a part of God’s character, isn’t it? If we are made in God’s image, shouldn’t anger be considered a natural part of our character, a quality that could be “godly” if harnessed properly? And didn’t Jesus get angry? Didn’t he speak and act in anger on occasion? To all of this I say, yes, OK. But I’m still convinced anger won’t ever be good for you and me or the people in our lives. Some will say, but doesn’t the Bible say, “Be angry, and sin not”? Doesn’t that imply that we can be angry in non-sinful ways? Perhaps. All I can tell you is—I never have. I’m pretty sure I never will. Sorry, but with all due respect I feel the same way about you too.

So what do we do with this? I can assure you that what I’m NOT going to do is give you “ten steps for overcoming anger.” If someone tries to sell you that curriculum, hang up on them (not in anger, of course). There is no program, no training that will do the trick. To eliminate anger would mean we would have to cease being human. And to eradicate the sinful tendencies that corrupt our anger and make it so devastating, we would have to be perfected in sanctity.

We come back to the Gospel. I need Jesus’ continual forgiveness and mercy for my anger. I need the cross. I also need Jesus’ victory over the powers of sin, his living presence with me, and the power of the Holy Spirit filling me each day. I need the resurrection, the ascension, and Pentecost. I need a family that loves and supports me, that forbears my faults, forgives my sins, and befriends me in spite of my weaknesses. I need the church. I need to hear and receive and be nourished by the Gospel all the time. I need the Word and the Table. I need to remember my Baptism.

In short, I need a life with Jesus. I need the life of Jesus.

Don’t underestimate a deadly sin like anger. Not only does it not help, but it takes everything heaven has done and can do to overcome and eliminate it.

Comments

  1. I agree. Unrighteous anger does a lot of damage between two people. In fact, I would even say that unrighteous anger is an indication of a lack of a spiritual relationship with God. Those who habitually practice the sin of unrighteous anger demonstrate that they were never truly regenerate. That is the awfulness of unrighteous anger.

    • Interesting distinction: Unrighteous anger. Whenever I see a distinction between righteous and unrighteous anger I’m looking for the “but“: “Anger is bad, but my anger is righteous anger, so it’s okay!”

      I suspect that most excuses for righteous anger are just that – excuses – and that most of what passes for righteous anger is just as bad as unrighteous anger.

      • I used to think that my anger as a parent was justifiable. Man was I ever wrong and it took me 22 years to figure it out.

    • I don’t make a distinction, Mark. I don’t think it’s possible. In my experience, any time I’ve been convinced I’m acting in “righteous” anger, I ended up red-faced and embarrassed.

      • Yuri Wijting says:

        This is particularly true of me. “Righteous” anger usually got me into trouble, especially when I thought someone was theologically ignorant. There’s an interesting line from Jesus and I paraphrase “He who says raca is worthy of hell”.

      • I don’t know if I’d qualify this as righteous anger, but anger that causes things to be built can be a good thing. If someone is motivated by anger at the lack of help a certain community receives and uses that anger to create a charity, that would be as close to righteous anger as I could think of. You’re right in that it’d be better for them to do this without anger, but if it’s creating the charity out of anger or not creating the charity, I’d argue the first is better.

  2. Anger is an issue for me. I had a number of things that happened that led to anger becoming a major problem.

    1. My Campus Crusade staff director became very judgemental and put me in a situation where he thought it would be a good lesson to lose my job. Charming yes I know…you all know how evangelicals can be…
    2. Against that backdrop I leanred my accountability partner (again from the same lovely ministry…) lived a double life with porn and sexual immorality, and was deceptive in his confession even when he admitied that he lied regularly to me.
    3. I had to deal with several “Christians” who were quick to pass judgement on me which added to the above pain.
    4. When doubt overwhelmed me, I started asking questions that people didn’t want to hear. Those questions included why an omniscient God allows evil; to the problems with Christian salvation especially when one considers those who never heard the Gospel message because of their geograpghic location or time in history. In an environment where people are quick to condemn gays and Democrats, I asked, “Does the person who lived in Japan before the gospel got there or lived before Jesus go to hell becuase they never knew the Gospel?” I lost a lot of “friends” and was filled with anger over the situation.

    I never knew how angry I could become. I was filled with absolute rage. It culminated with me taking trips to the dumpster in a parking lot where I trashed a lot of Christian material…I mean not only was it not working but I didn’t see the point anymore.

    It was after I lost faith in Jesus that I realized that anger was never taught as a sin. Anger can lead to a lot of things, suicide, murder, etc.. I can understand how people can let things fester and grow, and grow, and grow. As an agnostic I’m trying to let go of anger. Since so much of it came about due to the actions of “Christians” I am hoping that things will change with the passing of time. Forgiveness is another issue. I realized the church doesn’t know jack squat about forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard, raw, and long lasting. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget and pretend in never happened. Likewise I think the culture forces to people to forgvie in a harmful way.

    In an effort to understand my own loss of faith I read Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis”. There was a story in there about how a woman was raped. She felt pressured to forgive and didn’t press charges. Shortly after the rapist was let go he turned around and raped another person. Now this woman felt guitly not only about her rape but the the second rape that was committed. I would venture to suggest that Christians don’t know what forgiveness is either. In my partuclar case I don’t know how to forgive my accountability partner for all the deception he did to myself especially after what I spoke with him and confessed on a regular basis about. To me my CCC leader don’t know how to forgive especially after the actions he took, harm that was done, and the pain that was caused. I’ve already learned that since a lot of evangelicals view things in black and white they feel like they have to defend their actions as well. That doesn’t allow a lot of room to reconsider and contemplate if they acted the wrong way.

    But anger is a cancer, it can grow, control a person, and fester. I am working on learning how to let go. Now I am trying to think of the life ahead of me and figure out a way to move beyond all this…though in all likelihood it will mean not believing in God at all, especailly after all the harm previously done to me when I believed in Jesus.

    Okay…I’m done 😯

    • “3. I had to deal with several “Christians” who were quick to pass judgement on me which added to the above pain.”

      Eberhard Arnold in his book Salt & Light says:
      “A man who through the Love of God has experienced new birth cannot judge any other man; rather he must have faith for all men. Jesus says, do not judge men; Love them.
      Judgment means passing a final, conclusive verdict. This you must never do. Love’s hope and Faith’s trust always leaves open the way to return home, to be saved for God’s kingdom.”

      I believe Love’s hope and Faith’s trust is the opposite of anger – & anger comes from judgement.
      peace

    • Dead men don’t get angry. We all need to go back and read Jeff Dunn’s post of the other day again.

    • Eagle, I can relate to your story as a myself was around people with CCC mentality and I had to strugle with a lot of anger. I left the CCC-like group some 2 years back and am still recovering from my anger and what helps me a lot is a book by Paul Young, The Shack. When I am overcome by anger I go and read/listen few chapters from the book and can survive another day with less anger. Then I do it all over again. I have read the book many, many times now. I am not saying it will work for everbody, but you can give it a try.

      • Martin-

        I have read the Shack. I did so in an effort to try and understand why a loving God allows evil. For me the issue of evil has also undermined Christianity. What was your story with CCC? Could you explain what happened to you. I think I am in the process of detoxing from something harmful. Its difficult, and it sucks, but I need to be honest with myself about what I can and can not believe. For me everything is on the table. From the issue of money, faith, job, career, church, “ministries”, to even whether or not Jesus exsits. It’s all under scrtunity. But I would be open to hearing your story with CCC.

        • Eagle, I would love to talk with you as well in regard to what you have said. I was very close to where you are but was too afraid to vocalize it. It sounds like you don’t want to throw it all away; you just don’t know which is up. Might I suggest Dr. Rosenbladt’s The Gospel for those Broken by the Church? That talk which is free was the beginning point of a journey by grace. Let me know what you think.

        • Well, when our kids were younger, they struggled with health problems (persisting till today but thanks to good medical care under control now) and what we were hearing was that we should pray more, search our life for some hidden and unconfessed sins, serve more, witness more and whole lists of other things to do in order to bribe God to heal our kids. We never believed this, but when you are surrounded with people who believe this nonsense, it drives you mad.

          In the small groups (they could easily be called accountability groups) we kept talking about how we can perform better in order to please god more and get more blessings from him. If I wanted to hear how people in the group were struggling with difficult questions in their life I would either get some prefabricated simplistic answers or they would try to pretend that they were so spiritual that they did not have to struggles in their life. Does it seem like honesty?

          Together with my wife we were trying to explain to the leaders of the group how painful and devastating this performance-based view of God was for us. But, of course, they would not listen. At that time we did not know how fanatical certain groups of Christians can be, needles to say that if I tried to verbalize some of the questions that you indicated in point 4 I was immediately marked as a troublemaker (if not dangerous heretic). But at that time I was stupid enough to think that if I keep arguing with them things will change. Only when I started reading blogs like Imonk I realized that my attempts are futile and that in order to maintain my sanity I have to leave the group which at that time was also my church, but many people around us insisted that if we leave the church we will stop believing in God.

          After reading The Shack I realized I did not believe in their version of god who always wants me to perform better and whom I can never satisfy and I was free to leave the group.

          I have been in the wilderness for some time now (which is much better than to be exposed to that abusive environment in which you are never able to please God enough and ask honest questions about life) but I do not want to be in the wilderness forever. I hope to find a group of people who believe in the God who loves me more than any human being ever has or ever will and who is never disappointed with me because he does not have any expectations from me. The same God that Mack met in the Shack. The same God who was not disappointed with Mack although Mack was not sure whether he believed in Him or not.

          OK, enough about me. The talk by Dr. Rosenbladt mentioned by Robin is also excellent and helped me a lot in my struggles.

          And as you are detoxing (funny I would use the same language about myself), please, keep ventilating your frustrations about what happened to you and if you do not have anybody who is safe and whom you can trust and talk face to face, use this blog or find other blogs where people who are in the detox period or through it and understand are sharing their experience.

    • @ briank & Bob Brague;

      What you say is certainly true. But rather than Jeff Dunn’s post on dying I’m thinking more of Chaplain Mike’s post on abuse. And what I’m hearing from the two of you, perhaps unintentionally, is akin to telling the battered wife that if only she had been more submissive her husband wouldn’t have beaten her.

      I’ve read Eagle’s story, as he has not been shy about posting it, and in a very real sense his situation is analagous to the beaten wife who left her abusive husband rather than allow herself to be killed, and is now being shunned (and shamed) for it.

      P.S. for Eagle: Tthank you for your honesty in these matters, and for being willing to share your story. What you’ve been through serves as a huge reminder of why this site is so important.

      • I was refering to the “christians” who were passing judgement – not Eagle’s anger.
        my last line may have been confusing – sorry.

        • Ah, gotcha. We’re certainly on the same page, then. Thank you.

          • …and what I meant was dead to self, not dead to everybody else, especially from abusive people around you. The best thing to do in that kind of situation is to remove yourself for your own safety and/or mental health, just as Eagle did. But I guess I’m saying he doesn’t have to take his anger with him if he is dead to himself and, more importantly, raised again to new life in Christ.

      • James-

        Thanks for your kind words. I don’t know what to think right now. After 10 years of diving head first into strong BAC evangelcal ideology, everything is now under question. There are three problems for me, one I don’t want to be hurt again in a faith based environment. Second for the last couple of years I started to feel sick when things started to hit me and I think of God, church, etc.. Third I don’t know what to believe or trust when it comes to faith. From my perspective its been so manipulted I’m confused as to what to believe. Some have told me that the two are separate that God is not responsible for what his believers do. As for me I question why God would allow such an important message to be harmed. It’s also implied that during the process that I took my eyes off God, which is also a farce, as I thought I was worshipping God in the organizations I was involved in. I just didn’t see what was coming. But you learn from your lesson. Anger is a part of this, and I’m trying to get past all this.

    • Eagle-

      Stop blaming others. You have a choice in how you live your life. Complaining on a message board about how badly you have been treated doesn’t seem particularly mature or helpful.

      • @greg-

        In many ways I made my choice and its why I am an agnostic. Something had to go, and for me it was “Christianity’ and all the problems it created. Throwing away a lot of my Christian material almost 2 years ago now felt so liberating. As I said above moving on will more likely be without God given what happened in the name of “God.” Also like I said above…there is a tendency among Christians to say that people like myself (when I was Christian) lost focus on God and focused on the church, pastors, etc.. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I was worshipping God when this happened but I was not expecting some of this to take place. But anger is a legacy of what happened, and its something that I hope will mellow with time as an agnostic. As time passes I’m sure I’ll feel comfortable living with it.

        • Eagle, I do not agree with what Greg says to you above your comment. You are not “complaining.” You are telling things as they are. And this board is the perfect place to be doing exactly that and I hope you will continue.

          • I agree wholeheartedly. Eagle’s situation is exactly the kind of thing iMonk is all about. After all, how did Micael Spencer’s book start? With the Dairy Queen story – an atheist who saw things more clearly than the young associate pastor.

            We need to hear Eagle’s story, if only to remind us why we’re here.

          • Exactly right, Joanie. Identifying the problem is a first step toward solving the problem.

            And if the problem is evangelicalism, we need to hear that.

          • Eagle,

            I agree with Joanie. You have every right to say what you said.

          • As usual, I agree with Joanie. Sorry to be so repetitive but I think her point really does bear repeating. What greg said was just that wrong, imo.

        • “there is a tendency among Christians to say that people like myself (when I was Christian) lost focus on God and focused on the church, pastors, etc.. ”

          This really is common, and it’s not only frustrating, it’s cruel. But if people can blame you for your crisis of faith, they don’t have to ask the difficult questions of themselves and their churches.

          • Marie,

            I agree with what you are saying about Christians not asking the hard questions.

            Eagle,

            I’m glad that you are here. I’m glad that you are telling your story, and listening to ours. That makes us who we are. I appreciate your wisdom in getting away from those toxic folk.

      • Greg-

        You have a choice in how you live your life. Rebuking a stranger who is opening up on a message board doesn’t seem particularly mature or helpful.

    • One consequence I’ve also had to live with and try and unwind is that I have also had to try and keep from hurting others as a result of what happened to me. In December a friend of mine told me that he felt like he was being hurt or lumped together with others “Christians” becuase of what what took place. I had to apologize and its been a process. I have to fight the temptation that my friend wont bail, or deceive like some of the original situations that brought this on in my life. The hard part is that when trust has been burned….how can you learn to trust again? I’ve actually tried to speak ot people who have been through divorces where the spouse cheated and violated that trust. How do they learn to trsut again? How do they learn to move on?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’ve actually tried to speak ot people who have been through divorces where the spouse cheated and violated that trust. How do they learn to trust again? How do they learn to move on?

        When you find out, Eagle, let me know. All I can say is it takes time to heal; sometimes it takes a LONG time to heal, and some never do. And the common Christianese response of glib platitudes like Job’s friends (even with Bible verses and “In Jesus’ Name” mixed in) only make it worse. (All I can say is that anyone who counsels you like that has NEVER been hurt like you have.)

        Funny you should mention “divorces where the spouse cheated and violated that trust”. I’ve been mistaken for someone who’s been through that, when I have never married. But some 25 years ago I DID have a bad breakup with my only girlfriend which still causes full-strength flashbacks and keeps me unable to trust women. Like I said above, some take a LONG time to heal and some never do.

        • HUG and Eagle, I’ve dealt betrayal and trust issues. I was both sinner and sinned against in some extremely hurtful and destructive ways. For a while, my capacity to trust and accept people simply was not there. My willingness and ability to trust someone was gone because I had proven faithless, and it came to light that the person I had placed deep and weighty amounts of trust had been lying to me and using my own weakness to manipulate me.

          I wondered if I would ever be able to trust someone again.

          Through prayer, therapy, and gaining emotional distance, though, I was able to boil down the issue to some basic components: to be in a relationship is to risk hurt; gripping my old hurts and betrayals tightly simply made me too closed to truly enter into a relationship.

          This doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with trust issues or that I turn a blind eye to troubling patterns. But I realized that if I was going to actually be in a healthy, loving relationship, I would have to risk trust. Being hurt sucks. But being closed off and curling around old scars sucks worse.

          I know this sounds simplistic and dismissive – it’s not meant to be. It was a progressive thing for me, risking trust in increments. The choice is simple – but not easy.

          • Eagle,

            You’ve touched on a sore spot that many here at IM have experienced. And it shows something Michael Spencer has complained about for some time, as well as many others. That we treat Christianity as if it were just one vast pyramid scheme. The whole deal is selling the product and teaching othes to sell the product, like many in the CCC and other places do. Nobody ever thinks of actually USING it.

            What would we become, and how attractive would the Gospel be if we DID actually use it before selling it? We could become dangerous.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The whole deal is selling the product and teaching othes to sell the product, like many in the CCC and other places do.

            Muliplying Ministry = Amway Without the Soap.
            (And Christ reduced to your Amway Upline)

            What would we become, and how attractive would the Gospel be if we DID actually use it before selling it?

            We might actually LIVE.
            We might actually Have Life, and Have It More Abundantly.

  3. excellent post! I battle anger frequently and am both convicted and encouraged by your words.

  4. Brilliant, Mike. This needed to be said, and I needed to hear it.

  5. Maybe if we all turned green and tore up the place like Bill Bixby did in that old TV show “The Incredible Hulk,” we’d learn what anger can do.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nHtohwHFmQ&NR=1

  6. In discussions on this topic, someone will eventually bring up the overturning of the tables at the Temple.

    Was that anger?

  7. ” … there is nothing that can be done with anger that cannot be done better without it.”

    The prevalence of anger in the Christian blogosphere is one of the reasons I took two years off and didn’t miss it at all. But I think the Dallas Willard quote—taken at face value because I don’t know the context—is still an overstatement. Having said that, the occasional, appropriate use of anger isn’t the problem; it’s the tendency to resort to it first and resort to it quickly rather than being “slow to anger.” Thanks for posting this.

  8. I tried for years not to outwardly express anger, but that led to depression and a numbing to the world around me. I eventually reached the point my body was shutting down on me. I still struggle with the need to express anger every day. That is not the answer.

    There is a time and place for anger, but in my human depravity I do not often know when. I am thankful God has mercy.

    • This article comes appropriately on the heels of the article on domestic abuse.
      The abuser talked about in the last article many times is wallowing in pools of anger.
      Anger at people – not being able to control them.
      Anger at self – not being able to control him/herself.
      Anger at God – for why he does what he does.
      Some of it pent up and some of it gets out. Efforts to hide it are usually pretty futile, especially since the angry person knows that God looks on the heart. Ouch.

  9. Mike (the other chaplain) says:

    I think of all contemporary writers, Willard has got what it means to be a disciple down. I’m surprised Michael never wrote a full review of his works.

    Thanks Chaplain Mike….I needed to hear this today.

  10. You’ve probably already thought about this, Chap Mike, I was wondering if you draw any distinction between anger towards specific individuals, vs. systemic evil generally ?? Granted , anger towards the latter tends to bleed into anger towards the former…..but does anger toward genocide, domestic abuse, cruelty to pets and people, ALWAYS morph into an unloving response ?? Can their be a prophetic response of any kind on our part toward systemic sin where some amount of outrage is not an assault on individuals, but a defense of the defenseless ?? Make sense ??

    GREG R

    • I think this is a really good point

    • Part of lament is anger. I take the Psalms to tell us that we will have the kind of anger you talk about. I also take them to tell me one of the appropriate things to do with that is to express it to God in prayer.

      • Not to be the gadfly, but I see some usefulness in anger here: would it even make it to GOD in prayer if it weren’t (partially) for the anger, the outrage, the “somebody’s GOT to do something…….” ?? Maybe the problem comes when our response takes anger and goes the next step into: and I”M JUST THE MAN TO DO IT…….. instead of going to GOD. This would seem to make PRIDE more the fall guy than ANGER. Just some thoughts.

        • I think you are missing my point, Greg. As humans, we cannot avoid getting angry. It is a part of who we are. It’s what we do with it that matters.

          • As I see it, we actually agree, it’s just that the title of your post was “It NEVER helps..” and I’m going to suggest that, as you wisely pointed out, it can, depending on how we respond to it. Which is often not very well, and in our own strength. I’m suggesting , and I think you agree, that the Bible does hold out the possibility of something good coming of it. Unless you are saying that this is something good in spite of our sinfulness (anger).

            Blessings to youand yours
            GregR

            • Greg, I would suggest that anger is such a strong and volatile emotion, that the chances of my responding to it correctly are very slim. This is why I stated (and perhaps overstated) my point. Paul speaks in the same unequivocal way—get rid of anger. James says man’s anger does not work God’s righteousness. Overstated? Perhaps. But I recognize the wisdom in stating it this strongly.

          • In a church culture where the favorite men’s metanarratives are either contact sports or military oriented, I totally and thoroughly see your point. I think Wild at Heart has had its day in the western sun….we could use some different pictures of what to do with our passions. I get ya’….. Extracting the diamond from this rough…..well, it might not even be a real diamond…..

            GregR

  11. CM: You have no idea how timely this is for my life right now. In my present state of mind, I find it very hard to say, but, thank you.

  12. “Don’t underestimate a deadly sin like anger. Not only does it not help, but it takes everything heaven has done and can do to overcome and eliminate it.”

    I can work on my relationship with God, family, friends for years and it takes only one angry episode to undo it all. I find when my walk with God is not as strong as it should be, when I put those imporatant things like prayer on the back burner because I just don’t have time, I am more vulnerable to becoming angry at a person or situation. And why am I getting angry, because I feel hurt or unheard, or unloved or I am defending myself or thinking something is unfair – for me its a common theme – I am thinking soley about myself.

    In theory it seems easy – but then there are buttons or sore spots inside me – those touch points that bring out the bear, or at least the loud barking dog in me. If I could just hesitate for a minute and listen to God whispering, to assess before I bark, life could be so much better.
    I’m with you Chaplain Mike – I regret the times I barked at my kids, my wife. And since I am seen by most to be a person who is level headed and unrufflable when I do show some it can be a bit out of character.

  13. I disagree with Jesus. In fact, it’s hard to see his philosophy as anything but unbalanced–the sort of thing you might embrace while living the life of an aescetic, perhaps, but certainly impractical when applied to the real world. I much prefer Aristotle, who would have us be angry at the right things, and with the right degree of anger. Likewise with pride, which Christian tradition wrongly regards as a sin.

    There’s a reason why human beings have evolved to feel emotions like anger and pride–they are good for us, at least sometimes (no fair limiting the discussion to family situations!), and we are not fully human without them. This is why Nietzsche criticizes Christianity for its “slave mentality” (admittedly a one-sided, distorted view of Christianity).

    And does anyone seriously suppose that anger is as bad as murder, or lust as bad as adultery? Here again Jesus has said something absurd, and we do not do him any favors by pretending that it makes sense.

    • Werner, I actually agree with your logic. I realized long ago that Jesus’ teaching is not logical. Still, I believe. If I wanted a logical religion, I would have followed another faith (or no faith at all).

    • Werner, I appreciate your candor, but you did not mention what Jesus said that you are disagreeing with. Without this, your comments confuse the discussion instead of advancing it.

      If you are talking about Matthew 5, could I kindly suggest you don’t understand his words. Jesus did not say anger was equal to murder, nor lust equal to adultery. He was, rather, showing the full dimension of the law, which includes inward attitudes as well as outward actions, to people who had learned to externalize and circumvent it’s call to holy living. In doing so, he was also showing them their spiritual bankruptcy, so that, hopefully, they could become the poor in spirit who would receive the kingdom.

      You claim that pride and anger are good for us; I suppose you mean for us to accept this on faith, since you give no analysis to support the assertion. You will, I hope, forgive me if I decline to accept your assertion, and continue to follow the teachings of the one who changed the world.

      • Re-reading the post, I remember that Mike did quote a passage from Jesus, and this is undoubtedly what you were referring to. Please disregard my first paragraph.

  14. David Cornwell says:

    Chaplain Mike gets a little meddlesome at times doesn’t he? Anger is an issue that I’ve had a problem with all my life. Not that I’ve been explosive toward other persons usually. But it festers in my thinking and can warp relationships. It shows itself in that twin of Anger, Contempt. It can lyingly convince me that mine is Righteous Anger and therefore that I’ve one nothing wrong. In the end that Contempt turns itself on me and I become its ultimate victim.

    It’s easy for Christians to fool themselves into thinking that their anger is the righteous kind, like the anger Jesus had. Once you swallow that hook, you are off the hook. Or are you?

    E. Stanley Jones, Methodist missionary to India in another generation, believed that these kind of sins often were converted into actual serious physical ailments in a person. I’m not sure he had any proof of this, but there has to be at least a kernel. if anger and contempt lead to depression and suicide then it seems to me that other ailments manifested in the body could also be a result.

    Yes, we are dead in our sin.

  15. I agree with what has been said here. I have seen in myself the effects of my anger on my relationships. When I have anger (rage), it is almost always expressed when I feel my rights or expectations have been violated.
    However, if not anger, what is the emotion that drives some people to mitigate the injustices done to others. Isn’t it a form of anger that propels organizations like International Justice Mission to seek justice for victims of human trafficking? Wasn’t Martin Luther King and William Wilberforce motivated by anger as they sought to end racial discrimination and slavery?
    Perhaps our objection to anger is really a protest to the baggage the word has accumulated.

    • Good questions, Tom. The word, “anger” has a very wide semantic range. Perhaps we need to find a different expression for the type of internal burning we (should) feel at the examples you mentioned.

    • There are several MLK quotes about the dangers of living in anger, so I don’t know if I would say it was anger that motivated him. I’d say it’s a desire for justice. I think God’s justice can have an aspect of anger in it, but I think the thing we fail to often see in justice is the aspect of restoration to wholeness, or shalom. Yes, it deals with the issues, but it also restores things.

      I attend a church that is largely African American, and one thing that surprised me, and still does, honestly, is the lack of anger of people there. There are people who have experienced discrimination, hate, and unfair treatment, but, yet, on the whole, I see less anger there than in many predominantly white churches I’ve been in. I do not hear angry sermons about the evils of gay marriage or legalized abortion. What I hear are sermons that remind us of the Father’s heart and how Christ approaches people. I agree with Chaplain Mike. Anger is something we need to choose to walk away from.

    • You are restating some of what I said above about systemic sin. I do think that the line between anger at sytemic sin and anger at people who practice that is , perhaps, razor thin. I’m finding it hard to believe that our disposition towards human traffcicking would be JUST frustration or exasperation minus any anger. I would welcome others’ thoughts on this.

      • I think maybe the key distinction is how you view the people responsible for the injustice. In the sense that the opposite of anger is not passivity or lack of emotion, but rather love for all involved, including the guilty. But taken to its logical conclusion, this leads to love for Hitler, which has a tendency to ruffle some feathers.

        • I think maybe the key distinction is how you view the people responsible for the injustice.

          I’m thinking the same thing: anger at the waste of human life does not have to equal some kind of vengeance or hatred or retribution to those responsible, partially because we are not all that different than “them”. I think it is unrealistic and a little wierd to think we could approach some things (temple prostitution of 5 yr olds) and not get even a little angry. I don’t think this contradicts the book of James, BTW; I’m still formulating my stance on this, but I’d quickly agree that the great proportion of anger out there….and IN HERE (GregR)….is NOT of the variety I’m making the exception for. Thanks, Marie, for the ping-back.

          GregR

        • Actually the opposite of love is not anger. Love and anger are closely related in many ways. It is very possible to be angry at someone one minute and loving soon after. The opposite of love is apathy.

    • Perhaps the word you are looking for is ‘indignation?’

  16. Joe Rutherford says:

    I’m convinced that anger has no place in our lives as Christians. If anger is needed, God will take care of that Himself. “Vengence is mine says the Lord, I will replay.”

    • Joe Rutherford says:

      Sorry….not replay. but repay

    • Yes, but do anger and vengeance necassarily go together ?? Is there a way of having one, without stepping into the other ??

    • I think anger is an emotional signal, to say to us, “Pay attention: something important is being threatened.” The hard part for me is to step back from that anger before I act on it, and figure out what is the important thing, and what is the threat.

  17. sarahmorgan says:

    Sadly enough, I have been far less angry at anything since I quit participating in church here in my small town. Being a life-long Christian, it wasn’t easy, but getting away from the insecure, dishonest, narcissistic leaders, as well breaking all contact from their fearful, self-centered, and cruelly judgmental congregations did wonders for my blood pressure. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong, but I haven’t yet found any Christians here who can articulate how to do it right. :-/

    • Joe Rutherford says:

      Sarahmorgan, I do sympathize with your situation. The divisions, the competitions, etc; in the modern day Church are almost to much to bare. It has truely been and continues to be a great challenge for me, and I think many. I stop short of total boycot of the Churches. My wife and I do attend Church meetings. But it is a great problem.

    • sarahmorgan: Yes, the ‘chuch detox’ process is not a negative one. In fact, I think it is simply part of any saint’s honest faith journey. As with any close relationship, especially within immediate family, dysfunctional, co-dependent, manipulative ones need proper boundaries established. And if avoidance is appropriate then by all means simply stay away.

      I will acknowledge the avoidance process can itself turn into a coping mechanism though. If it is not addressed & dealt with, the knee-jerk affect becomes as much a stumbling block as other behaviors we resort to in self-protection.

      All church environments are not caustic/toxic. And being able to navigate thru the imperfect relationships we all are at least half of is what we are being strengthened+transformed to do rightly. At least that is what I understand of spiritual maturity: living in truth, being respectful, discerning & not an enabler of negative behaviors in others.

      Blessings on your journey…

    • Sarah

      I hear you, and in a way living in a similar situation. Yesterday, after the annual ecumenical service, there was a reception. I started to go to the reception, but turned around and left. Partly, because I didn’t want to run into two of the people there. But the major reason was that I had a choice of being lonely, at my own church, or clinging to a couple that I knew but no longer shared a ministry.

      I’ve been at that church for about 4.5 years.

  18. Good words, Mike.

    I take the phrase, “be angry and do not sin” as explained in the following phrase, “don’t let the sun go down our your wrath”. That is, if someone does something that hurts me, the emotion of anger I feel inside initially is not sinful. It is analogous to feeling pain when I stub my toe. But after the initial shock of pain, I then have a choice, a moral choice, about whether I feed that anger or starve it. Even if I cannot choose to not “feel” angry, I can choose to seek His help in 1) not responding in anger, and 2) letting my anger be replaced by peace.

    Overall, I find that when I get angry, it is, as you mentioned, related to my pride and the expectations I have (on life, on others) because of that pride. When I learn to die to myself, remember I am a creature with no rights in the area in question, and commit my needs to his care, then I am able to let go of that anger.

    Thanks again for your good essay.

  19. david carlson says:

    Anger is the expression of contempt. Contempt is the heart issue

  20. Indignation done right/anger/really upset/ whatever we call it, it was exemplified in the life of Christ, we may not prefer talking about it, but nevertheless it was there. Check out – The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ by John MacArthur – he makes some salient points.

    • Has anyone claimed that Jesus never gave reain to his anger? I don’t think so. But that doesn’t mean we can do the same. Jesus did lots of things that we can’t emulate.

      What Mike is saying in the OP is that we oughtn’t to vent our anger.

      • Jesus did a lot of things as the Son while in the flesh. What other human things/emotions/feelings did Jesus say/do that we should not emulate? Thank you.

        Venting versus acting upon, which is worse? Keeping it in so long that we turn into volcanoes is not good, neither is letting it go so often that it hurts others on a regular basis. Venting is considered therapy by some, psychological abuse by others.

  21. This is one reason I so regret now the times I was angry with my children. It pains me deeply to think how frightened and under attack they must have felt just to see dad’s furious face, even if I didn’t explode in a tirade. And if in my rage I acted out and caused a scene, it must have seemed to them like an overwhelming onslaught of malicious force. Kyrie eleison!

    Amen… 🙁

  22. One person was known to speak and believe these two things. Do you know who it was?

    “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

    “It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”

    (This is me speaking now.) When I am angry, it prevents me from enjoying life. It just gets in the way. But it would be dishonest of me to pretend to not be angry. So, like someone above said, the best thing to do is to pray. Jesus has a way of taking that anger away and replacing it with his peace.

    Someone above wrote about anger towards things like slavery, abuse and the like. If we can turn that anger into loving justice and working diligently toward justice, then that seems to be a positive way of dealing with it, it seems to me.

  23. I also totally agree that anger is never a good thing. That said, there were two occasions in my life when I’ve had explosive bursts of temper. In both cases, my anger was the accumulative effect of abuse.

    1) (Before Christ) I was in the military and during training, several members of my unit chose to torment me. Today they probably would call it hazing or bullying, but for me it was a living hell. Finally, after around two months of abuse, I could not take it any longer and I slugged one of my chief tormenters in the face. After my outburst, the bullying, more or less stopped. When I look back on this experience, I don’t know how I would have handled it now. I would like to think as someone in Christ, that I would be able to respond more appropriately. Still I cannot help but think that my anger was an appropriate response at the time.

    2) More recently, this past year I yelled at one of thechurch leaders at a staff meeting. This church leader, while gifted, was also manipulative and condescending. I knew immediately after expressing myself that this was the wrong response and totally inappropriate. Yet, at the same time, I was happy that for the first time after tolerating this behavior for 15 years, that I did something to stop it. Honestly, I was actually a little thankful and relieved at the time, because I realized that my actions would eventually lead me out of an abusive church situation. (It did!)

    In both of these instances, I had reached a boiling point, after allowing my personal boundaries to get trampled on. In both cases, my anger was wrong and inappropriate. What I learned, though, is that when we cannot be honest with others, particularly Christians, and when we keep our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, anger can often be the result.

    At least in the first instance, I realized that anger and murder are closely allied. No, I did not murder the person who was tormenting me, but at the time, I probably killed him in my heart. In the aftermath of the latter event, while I was thankful that I was finally able to express my anger, I didn’t want to live in that anger and become bitter. I realized that bitterness and unforgiveness could poison my relationship with God.

    So, what is the point with all of this? I guess, its just to say that the reasons for our anger can be quite complex. Before you judge the person who is angry, try to understand them and have compassion on them, and try to look at what is provoking them.

    In the end, I am thankful that we worship a savior who heals ALLour hurts and infirmities.

    • Refering to situation #1: I will be honest and say the most successful way besides removing yourself from the situation entirely is to do what you did. When I present that approach I usually get gasps from all the idealistic folk in the room….

      • I did the same sort of thing to a girl in sixth grade, and she never bothered me again. It is complex. As DB Beem implies, there are two people to be hurt in a confrontation of this sort. My action (kicking the girl in the shins) was the effective one in this world, but what did it do to me?

  24. I don’t think it’s wrong to feel something like anger at ongoing or systemic sin or injustice, as an initial reaction (sort of like pain, as someone else has pointed out). I’d even go so far as to say there’s something wrong if these sorts of things don’t disturb and shock a believer. The problem comes when we stay let those feelings alone continue and grow and don’t convert them to work and healing and love and prayer.

    And it really gets destructive when we let our anger turn into enmity and contempt, which is something Dallas Willard discusses a fair bit in the Divine Conspiracy, if I recall correctly (it’s been a while since I read it), and doubly so if we try to justify that anger/enmity/contempt as something righteous. I’ve seen this unfortunately, on a few occasions, even from a family member. It is incredibly destructive to relationships; contempt dehumanizes others.

    Anger is a cancer, fed by pride and its strong sense of self. The only remedyis more of Jesus Christ and less of me.

    • John, I was nodding along at first….and then you lost me by seemingly backtracking.

      That anger more often than not simply fuels selfish, prideful thoughts and behavior I don’t dispute. That self-serving anger often disguises itself as “righteous anger” and achieves destruction rather than healing and reconciliation I also do not dispute.

      But I refuse to accept or agree with the idea that all anger is bad and sinful. Jesus himself grew angry enough to cleanse the temple – since we accept Him having full humanity as well as full divinity, do we say Jesus was in selfish, prideful sin in doing so? And as noted – anger at social or community injustices can be productive, initial fuel for righting wrongs.

      Anger can be useful. It can help us realize we are being hurt, or are experiencing hurt. It can give us a bit of strength if we are in physical danger or loved ones are in danger.

      And if anger is so thoroughly sinful and useless – why did God give it to us? Why did God allow us to have the capacity for such raging fury, when we already have the capacity for sin in other ways (lust, greed, gluttony, etc.)?

      Whether you’re a YEC or theistic evolutionist or hardcore neo-Darwinian, anger is an integral part of our psyche, and it’s there for a reason. I refuse to accept that it’s wholly and thoroughly evil and sinful.

      • I thought I outlined fairly clearly what I thought. If you disagree, feel free. However, a couple of things to consider:

        Anger can be useful.
        Yup, it can. But useful is not the same as good. And, useful for what?

        And if anger is so thoroughly sinful and useless – why did God give it to us?
        Well, as you seem to indicate, just because we have the capacity for something in this fallen world doesn’t mean it’s right to do it. Free will gives us the capcity for many things, good and evil.

        As for Jesus, He did many things I can’t, and unless you want to ascribe the temple incident entirely to his human nature, I don’t see your point here. Also, I agree with Chaplain Mike that there was definitely a strong prophetic element to that act. Context is vital to the interpretation and application.

        I didn’t write off anger altogether as universally sinful in my comment, but I do come pretty close. Let’s just say I have yet to see anything good ultimtely come from it in my own human experience.

        • John, my post wasn’t written all that clearly. It was instigated by your post, but was also taking in previous posts. Hence addressing the stance that “all anger is bad anger.” Please accept my apologies if it came across as confrontational, as it wasn’t meant to be.

          I bring up the cleansing of the temple not because I think we should do that exact thing, but because it was an example of human anger in action, doing something right and holy. Because Jesus was fully human, and in/through Him (not using precise language here, so please no cries of heresy), God experienced the full range of beng human, we can conclude that being angry, in and of itself, is not sinful nor must it necessarily lead to sinful results. If Jesus did, can we not safely assume it was not sinful? And by “it,” I don’t mean the actual overturning of tables and beating of the money changers. I mean “being angry.” Which would mean, would it not, that anger, in and of itself, is not bad or sinful?

          And yes, free will gives up the capacity for great evil and great acts of goodness. But I don’t think anger, in and of itself, is sinful or evil. It’s what we do with that anger – and, to a slightly lesser extent, what we allow to make us angry, is where the good or evil lies.

          j. Michael Jones is making these points far better than I am, but I wanted to respond to your questions.

          • We’re probably closer in our positions than it’s possible to make out in a medium such as this. I get that Jesus use of anger means it’s not inherently sinful, but it sure can become so pretty easily for the rest of us in my experience. Peace.

  25. In the Defense of Anger

    I’m playing devil’s advocate here but I have an honest question that I would like for you to mull around. In my (and many other’s) opinion, sin is a perversion of something good and God given. I suspect that we are wired for anger (limbic system in the brain, that adrenal axis etc) for a reason, yet that reason is frequently perverted. I would also add that God is angry many times in scripture and we are indeed created in His image.

    So, the questions is, “what is healthy anger?” Some here have alluded to a “righteous anger,” as being appropriate. But sometimes I think we go too far in a denial of our humanness (or as Schaeffer called the “Manishness of man”) or our God-created nature. Many, many Christians, in my humble opinion, because of this denial, pretend that they are not angry when, in reality they are livid. They dress their anger up in religious words. I had a pastor screaming at me and drooling in rage a few months ago, but when I asked him to tone down his anger in my house, he lectured me on “judging him, by saying he was angry when he was only humbling doing God’s work.” That’s the delusion I’m talking about.

    But there seems to be a need to educate us on good anger vs bad.

    I often have to have confrontations with drug abusers in my line of work (head pain clinic). Recently I found out that a rather large, burley and aggressive man had been lying to me and getting narcotics from six different doctors, often hours between. I would have to say that I was angry. I had a signed contract that he would not do that. I got in his face and gave him a very aggressive lecture and made it clear he was an addict and directed him how to get help for his addiction. He had not listened to my passive, compassionate voice over several months. But I became like Popeye after he had eaten spinach (thank you adrenal gland an limbic system). I could never had done that without anger. Looking back, I think getting in his face (while he was twice my size) was the right thing to do. I really got his attention. You could call it righteous anger if you want, but it wasn’t the same as fighting directly against those who had turned the Holy Temple into an E-bay.

    So, I don’t think we should paint all anger with the same brush . . . any other thoughts?

    • “But I became like Popeye after he had eaten spinach ”

      J. Michael Jones…sounds like you needed to do that to get the man’s attention. You may have saved his life.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        There’s an old saying somewhere about training a donkey that “first you hit it over the head; then now that you’ve gotten it’s attention…” Sometimes you have to get extreme to get their attention, especially after soft words have gotten blown off. JMJ’s anecdotal experience with Mr Easyscore brings to mind two similar ones:

        The first was the priest who catechized me many years ago, a slightly-built man who’d suffered all his life from poor health. He was counseling a couple where the husband was passively abusing the wife; when he found out, this slight sickly priest Got in the Guy’s Face but good; his Popeye-on-Spinach roar brought everyone in the parsonage/office to find out what the emergency was. I don’t know if it had any effect on the passively-abusive husband.

        The second was a Protestant minister I read somewhere long ago, also in a domestic abuse situation. Husband kept denying he was abusive or even angry; minister kept calling him on it, and the situation escalated, ending with the husband-in-denial flying into a rage and punching out the minister. I think something good came of it; by not only “raising hand against” but cold-cocking his minister, the guy finally realized what he had become.

    • MJ

      I don’t know what the answer is…correct me if I am wrong, but it seems as if your approach to confrontation produces fear. I’ve leanred that fear can only go so far, and can backfire long term. Too many view Christinaity as behavior modification and use fear tactics as a mean to force a change.

      You’re the doctor, I don’t know enough about drug addiction to tell you what I would have done. When I look at my life I think, “geez I’m 36 and have a whole life ahead of me…is this (insert issue here) worth screwing up my life?”

      Does that make sense? Love your blog BTW…it’s been cool to hover around.

  26. Thank you Mike for the excelent overview of a not-to-be- takin’ too lightly subject.

  27. If I were a member of one these ‘holiness’ churches, I’d be angy too.

    A great many of these churches drive people to despair, make them into phonies, or in the worst cases pump people up with pride (because they actually believe that they are on the escalator to greater Christian obedience and faithfulness.

    Give me a break.

    Here’s a quick scenario for Christian peace and rest:

    Realize that you are not capable of being what you ought be.

    Realize that Someone died for you knowing full well who and what you are…and that He loves you anyway. Not when you’ve cleaned up your act. The Lord loves you right now. And He adopts you, and gives you everything that is needed, in your Baptism. That is Christian freedom. And rest in the Lord.

    Or…you can play church and become one of the three ‘types’ mentioned above.

    • As a long time member of a “holiness” church… I would like to note that “holiness” is a work of the Spirit, not something we achieve on our own.

      • If only people would realize that. If only people would realize that we walk by faith, and not by sight.

        If only preachers could seperate the law from the gospel so that people would not have a schizophrenic faith where they know they are saved by grace, but the preacher is always laying another demand on their backs to be a better Christian.

        If only folks in the pews could rest, instead of feeling like they are not quite there yet.

        When people don’t have the Sacraments, then everything reverts back to them.

        Thanks be to God that your “holiness” church is not like that, Mike.

  28. Rabbi Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) sounds a lot like you, coming from within the Rabbinic Jewish tradition, with a strong influence of Aristotle’s Nicomedian Ethics. Essentially, he advocates moderation – a Golden Middle Road – for all character traits, with the exceptions of arrogance and anger. Here’s what he has to say about the latter:

    http://www.torah.org/learning/mlife/ch2law3c.html
    “There are certain character traits which a person is forbidden to accustom himself in, even in moderation. Rather, he must distance himself to the opposite extreme. One such trait is haughtiness…

    “So too is anger an exceedingly bad quality; one from which it is proper that one distance himself to an extreme. A person should train himself not to anger even on a matter regarding which anger is appropriate. And if a person wants to instill awe upon his children — or if he is an administrator / provider (‘parnais’) and wants to anger at the community members in order that they mend their ways, he should only feign anger in their presence in order to castigate them, but his mind should be composed within. He should act as one impersonating an [angry] man while not being angry himself.

    “The early Sages said, ‘Whoever angers is as if he has performed idolatry.’ They said further that one who angers, if he is a scholar his wisdom will depart from him, and if he is a prophet his prophetic spirit will depart from him. [The Sages further stated,] ‘People who have tempers — their lives are not lives.’

    “Therefore, [the Sages] instructed us that one should distance himself from anger so much so that one accustoms himself not to feel even things which [would ordinarily] incite one to anger. And this is the ideal path.

    “It is [further] the way of the righteous that they are insulted / abused (‘aluvim’) but do not insult back; they hear themselves being disgraced and do not respond. They act out of love and rejoice in suffering. Regarding them does the verse state, ‘And those that love Him are as the emergence of the sun in its power’ (Judges 5:31).”

  29. I vaguely remember lessons in God School regarding a distinction between Anger and Wrath. Too tired right now to flesh that out. Useful distinction? Anybody?

    • My two cents…

      Anger is biological, an emotion, a manifestation of the fight/flight reflex. Wrath is intellectual, a deliberate choice, a mindset that often manifests itself in violence, justified or otherwise. In other words, it’s the difference between being angry enough to cut off a man’s ear, and actually doing it.

      How’s that? 🙂

      • Awake, now, I think I was with you till the last sentence. The last bit makes it sound as if it’s mostly a difference of degree rather than quality or nature (and I suppose it can be..)
        I suppose it’s a bit semantically artificial, but I think we sorted it out as anger being the emotional, reactive component (with or without actions following) and wrath as being the disciplinary or natural consequences engendered. (With or without anger… Maybe even from love.)
        Barely two cents, here.

  30. Anger is not a sin any more than fear or feelings of romantic love are sins. It’s a question of how we respond to our emotions that determines whether we are living lives of sin or of righteousness. There is such a thing as holy anger, which Jesus clearly exhibited in the Temple when he overturned the tables and chased out the money-changers with a whip. While anger is definitely a wild and sometimes overwhelming emotion, I would caution against demonizing this emotion that God has, does and will use for God’s purposes.