Preparing for this Sunday’s sermon I have seen pictures of angry people, angry dogs, angry cats, even angry birds. I suppose every animal with a spine can express anger. Anger makes us seem bigger and more powerful, ready to take on whoever or whatever has invaded our space. Anger helps us assert authority when we need defend ourselves, our home, or our loved ones, and for humans, our ideals.
But if used too freely anger can deter collaborating resulting in statements like: “I tried to tell you but …”
And once anger has inflamed our passion it distorts our memories of events and closes our ears and our eyes to our opponent’s virtues.
On the other hand, overly suppressing anger, acting nice in the face of rudeness, interference, or aggression helps no one. The person acting nice gets abused and disrespected and the one who violates cultural norms does not learn about boundaries our community respects.
Be angry but do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not make room for the devil.
— Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
But how are we to find a balance?
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath
and anger and wrangling and slander,
together with all malice,
and be kind to one another, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
— Ephesians 4:31-32 (NRSV)
One gift we have is to listen deeply and carefully when anger stirs our gut: To listen to ourselves discerning why our anger has arisen. And to listen to our opponents and discern what good and valuable and useful contribution might they be trying to offer or how might we have over stepped their boundaries.