Anger is a pervasive problem in our culture today. Business men and women are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not purchase their product or services, and angry at those who do purchase because they aren’t willing to pay the asking price or buy enough. They then take it home where they take out their anger. They then are angry that their family makes them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This anger is taken back into the workplace and the cycle continues.
There is a good anger, an anger which is our response to injustice and destructive activity. It can motivate us to do something positive to make good changes in our world. It gets us off center enough that we take needed action. Anger also tells us a lot about who we are, our hot buttons, our sensitivities, our past and present hurts. However, we must always be cautious of the toxic side of anger.
Anger is a self-protective mechanism that attempts to shield ourselves from what we perceive as emotionally dangerous. Thus, our anger tends to entrench us in our positions and cast blame on others. That leads us to avoid responsibility and not make necessary changes in our own lives. Some people have short fuses and are frequently angry, alienating themselves. Others have a long fuse with a terrible explosion like an atomic bomb creating havoc. Still others have a sputtering vengeful fuse that nurses resentment and builds like a poison in their system. What do we end up with? Patrick Morley writes, ‘Doctors estimate that over 60% of our diseases are caused by emotional stress. The secretions of anger from the adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands release their toxins into our bloodstream. Our anger…causes heart attacks, strokes, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, ulcers, and scores of other killer diseases.’
James in his general letters to followers of Christ in Turkey gives us a prescription for how to handle anger. ‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires… In your anger, do not sin.’ (James 1:19-20) First, he says we need to listen to one another when we are angry. Instead of tuning the other person out we need to intentionally work to listen better, to make sure we understand the situation and that we are not just reacting to having our buttons pushed. Listening is an act of good faith which keeps communication open. Second, when we are slow to speak, not only do we listen better, but we give ourselves time to cool down. Three seconds, ten seconds, or coming back to the topic at a later time may be what is needed to check your speech. Our unfiltered words that slip off the tongue do the most damage. And, unfortunately, it is not easily undone. As Sally said to Harry, ‘It’s out there! You can’t take it back.’ It is better – and easier – for us to be slow in our speech than to make enemies of those we work with and wound those we love. Third, we should use that passionate, angry response to motivate us to make things right and solve the problem. We need to ‘paint the dragon red’ then slay it. In other words, we need to clarify the problem then call others involved to strategize and overcome it together. That way your anger makes partners in resolving an issue rather than enemies of colleagues and family members.
May God give us all listening ears, slow speech and motivation to solve problems so that in our anger we will not sin.
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