Ever find yourself working up to a good outburst - that anger just bubbling up within? You know better, but somehow the events of the day just seem to be working on you until you are about to blow! It is an emotion we oftentimes want to have little less of and a lot more control over, right? Many times we almost respond without thinking, then end up "mopping up" what damage this emotion can produce after the fact. I want us to consider something different about anger today - the ability of anger to get us moving in a new direction. There are times when we just don't move off our mark until something makes us angry enough to move. I can be all cozy on the couch with a mosquito buzzing about my head for hours. Until that thing sets down, drops down its pointy "proboscis" (that biting instrument) deep into your flesh and begins to suck your blood. Now, you are mad! You might just swat it away the first time, but when it comes back for seconds AND dessert, you just plain have had enough! The "anger" propels you into action - you are up in a flash and swatting at the thing like a madman! It got you off your mark, didn't it?
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. (Ephesians 4:26-27 MSG)
If anger can actually propel us into action - getting us off our marks - then is it a bad thing? Not really, but anger has the potential of "turning bad" almost without notice. So, this emotion has to be managed well. Get it focused on others and it can be lethal in relationships. Get it focused on the inside of us, eating away at our core, and it can bring us down with crippling force with symptoms of depression, fatigue, and the like. I once heard something about anger and have held onto it for dear life - anger is a "moment" emotion. In other words, it is not to become our lifestyle - it is expressed, dealt with and we move on. Another thing about anger - when it is expressed, it has the potential for exponential growth. That said, it is probably pretty important we get a handle on how this emotion is to be used and when it will bring us nothing but problems!
Anger affects people - no one is left untouched by its expression - especially you. This is why I say it has the power to move us - to get us off our marks. Anger has the ability to grow, or to bring growth. How, where, and when it is expressed plays an important part in which one of these occur! If we get angry and see it as justified, it is likely not going to produce growth. When we feel "justified" in our anger, we are really passing some form of judgment against another's actions or words. We assign blame and then express our discontent about the other guy's actions. Anger directed at another often takes the focus off of us for a period of time, but whenever we lose control, we are really no longer in control - we just gave control of the situation over to another!
Anger is like gasoline - it can be used for the purpose it was intended for, or it can cause a mighty fire to burn out of control. Gasoline in the tank of your car actually gets the car moving in a particular direction. The gasoline serves the purpose for which it was designed. Gasoline thrown on a tiny ember results in sparks flying and flames higher than you might like to deal with! Going back to my illustration of the mosquito, the thing we need to see is the motivating power of anger. It gets us up and focuses us on dealing with the issue. Just spewing angry words and giving vent to our frustrations doesn't do the same thing. But...acknowledging you are displeased with the outcomes you are seeing, getting up and beginning to do something about it - that is a good expression of "anger".
Anger is oftentimes based on some form of expectation. I "expect" to rest quietly on the sofa, enjoying a good book, or taking in a little TV movie watching. I don't expect to become some pin cushion for a hungry mosquito! My responses are often based on my expectations. I expected rest - I got disturbance. I expected ease - I got work! The consequences of having misaligned expectations is often anger - giving vent to our frustrations. Here's another truth about anger - it isn't always good to vent it! Swatting wildly at the mosquito in anger only means I hit myself! I hurt myself in my outward expression of anger - it doesn't always make connection with what I intended to "hit"! Anger can easily be misdirected, can't it? I am angry with the mosquito, but everything else I "take down" in the process of trying to hit that evasive little blood-sucker are nothing more than "innocent bystanders". Anger has a way of taking in the innocent - causing them pain they did not deserve.
All this said, here are a few tips I want us to take away:
- Not all anger is bad. When it motivates us to get up and do something about what is nagging us, it is a good thing. We just need to be careful about how we go about "taking care of business". If we don't exercise care in our "movement" off our marks, we will take others out in the process.
- Anger doesn't need to be vented. Being in control of the circumstances often means we process our anger a little more deliberately than just giving it full expression. It may mean we slow down a little, think things through, but it also means we have a whole lot less "mop up work" in the end.
- Anger is a God-given emotion, but the expression of it is oftentimes "tainted" by our interpretation of the events and the vantage point we have when something gets us going. Be in a place of comfort too long and anything which "threatens" your comfort will get your juices flowing. Just saying!