Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. –Ephesians 4:25-27
Are you one of those people who think that “spiritual people” don’t get angry? Do you let people treat you any kind of way because that’s what you think Jesus would do? Are you someone who get’s triggered for different reasons and don’t know how to express it? If so, then this little piece is for you.
This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about anger on one of my blogs (see You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry) and it probably won’t be the last time because in my opinion, healthy anger is one of the least talked about topics in the whole world. Not that I have read or heard about everything being talked about in the world, but I felt like being a little dramatic would help me make my point so I said that. Anyway, whether or not healthy anger is one of the least talked about subjects or not, I am talking about it again because I am angry that people don’t talk about it enough. As a person who has had my more than fair share of people’s displaced anger dumped on me, I feel like it is my civic duty to use my voice to tell the 4 people who read my well thought out blogs that being angry is not a crime. I’m especially talking to you “spiritual people” who have convinced yourselves that acting like everything is always okay is spiritual. It isn’t. That’s why I love that the Bible talks about Jesus flipping out.
You see for me, Jesus’ ability to engage the gamut of human emotions is probably the main reason that I remained a Christian for so long. Things like him going off, calling people hypocrites and devils, crying when his friend died, and yelling to God when he felt forsaken really spoke to my experience as a human being and yet the Bible teaches that though he was tempted in every way that a person is tempted and yet did not sin. And if you think I’m just making something up, here is the passage it came from:
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin. – Hebrews 4:15
When I first read that passage, I read it to mean that being tempted itself isn’t harmful, but that rather, it is how we respond to temptation that counts. And reading what Paul wrote in Ephesians, I felt that the same idea applied to anger–there is a way to be angry and not sin. (If you want to learn some ways to anger and not sin check out one of the above links.) I think it is important to know this, because I believe that much of the world’s problems comes from people not knowing how to healthily express their anger and from people not putting in the work to get conscious and understand what is happening around them, but rather reacting to displaced anger or taking it on when they could actually be a contribution to healing rather than simply waiting for someone else to “get better”. Don’t feel guilty though. If after reading this you feel like you are part of the problem either actively or passively, just take this as a learning opportunity and start making a difference now. To facilitate this, I will list of some reasons why I think people often hide their anger and how we could make our anger count. These are in the order of what I get angry about.
- People don’t want to be seen as an “angry person”. This is silly. We spend so much of our time trying to manage other people’s perceptions of us that it is ridiculous. The fact is, no matter what you do people are very likely going to make stories up about you. An honest person is no particular kind of way all of the time. If someone thinks of you as an “angry person” because you expressed your honest feelings about something that disturbs you, then chances are they are seeing in you what they repress or suppress in themselves. That is unless you are a person that really does lose it over every little thing. Then I’ll just say, “get help”.
- “Jesus never said a mumbling word” and I want to be a good Christian. This probably could have been #1, but not everyone is Christian so… Look this is only something someone who never read the Bible would say. Relatively speaking, the Bible barely tells us anything about Jesus. That is a fact. And yet in the little piece that covers him we see him get angry, call people names, dis his mother and brothers, cry when his friend died, tell people to sell their coats and buy swords, say he did not come to bring peace, flip over tables, call his best friend the devil, cry until he sweats blood trying to get out of going to the cross, and then yell out that he felt forsaken by God that he went to the very cross he predicted he would go to. He did this alongside the other actions he is better known for. And yet I grew up being taught by church folk that being Christ-like meant being nice all of the time and keeping yourself together. While even as a child I knew that people were smiling on the outside and scowling on the inside. I could say a lot more about how this contributes to some unhealthy emotional behavior, but if you don’t see where I am going then you probably already stopped reading.
- People are afraid they will lose a relationship if they say how they really feel. To put it bluntly, you can not lose what you don’t have. The fact is that if you feel all these angry feelings and you don’t try to express them honestly, then you are not actually in the relationship you fear losing anyway. Really you are in a made up relationship that is in your head. The real you is angry. The face you are putting on to the people you are afraid of losing is smiling. You are lying. Your relationship is not happening. I think people do this with good intentions, but in my opinion they are cheating the person or business or whatever of getting to know the real you. But worse than anything, you are cheating yourself of knowing the real you. Does that mean you shouldn’t have tact? No. Like I said there is an appropriate way to express your anger. I suggest doing the work to figure out what that is for you.
- I’m afraid that if I let myself get angry I will go crazy. Chances are that this will not happen. Many people fear this because they associate anger with people getting all psycho. What we don’t realize is that people don’t just go psycho. That junk has been building up and then one day they just lose it. While you’re holding your anger at bay for fear of going psycho you might just be building a reserve of psycho energy by being in denial about what’s getting you. It would serve everyone better if more people expressed their anger than if they just lose it suddenly. This is coming from someone who has been there and done that. Well I didn’t go psycho, but I did let my anger go on too long. That’s why that passage says “put away lying, tell the truth, and don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” When you’re angry, at least be honest with yourself about it.
- No one cares about my feelings. You are right they don’t. But if you don’t care about them either then it will be a unanimous decision. So teach them to care. The appearance of anger in different situations is an educational opportunity and experience. It helps you to locate yourself emotionally and get oriented psychologically so that you can engage situations appropriately. From this place of awareness, you can actually transform your life and other’s by teaching them how to care about your feelings and theirs. Most people who take your feelings for granted take their own for granted as well. You being real can only help them get more real. But here’s a warning. They will take their junk out on you at first if they believe people are not supposed to share their anger. even if you’ve seen them lose it 1000 times they will try to stop you from doing it. They may say something like, “Be the bigger person” or “What would Jesus do?” Just tell them Jesus would call them a hypocrite and flip over their coffee table. Just joking. But it would be funny to say that.
- Calmer is better. No it isn’t. That is totally relative to the situation. Sometimes people “being calm” is the worst thing they could do. Once when I was about 8, I found this guy laying on the ground in his own vomit (I know. Gross right?) Anyway, when I asked him if he was alright, he jumped up like a crazed zombie and started chasing me down the street. I ran as fast as I could with my bicycle beside me trying to jump on. I couldn’t and I tripped. As the guy got closer, I kept screaming and tried to throw my bike at him. That didn’t work. He caught me, picked me up in the air, and held me up over his head. I was screaming the whole time and flailing and kicking. By God’s grace that man passed out and we both fell on the ground. I immediately hopped on my bike with no calmness whatsoever, rode it back toward home, and stopped to yell at the grown men who calmly watched a little kid screaming for help being chased by a grown man without doing a thing to assist me. I screamed, “What’s wrong with you? Didn’t you see that man chasing me? What kind of adults are you? You stink.” In my opinion, staying calm was not the right thing for anyone to do in that situation except for the drunk man. So remember, staying calm is not automatically better. It totally depends on the situation.
And like that, that’s it for this topic. I’m sure there’s more that I can say, but I am not a psychologist. I am just a guy who is practicing humanity, trying to know who I am, and sharing what I learn. If you find yourself in need of some serious help, find a professional. I also suggest really reading the Bible or at least the stuff about Jesus. Whether you are Christian or not, if you live in a Western culture you are deeply affected by the Christian religion. The subconscious of the culture is influenced by people’s perceptions and mis-perceptions about Jesus and most of us haven’t a clue. A lot of what we consider appropriate or inappropriate behavior has its roots in what people thought about his teachings. Getting educated on the larger dimension of what the Bible teaches–particularly the Gospels–will even help an atheist get a better understanding of some underlying beliefs that could be secretly affecting them. Regardless of who you are or what you believe, if you are reading this, chances are that you are human. You are a being of awesome potential. Anger is a part of that equation whether we want it to be or not. Wouldn’t you like to know all of you? Ultimately that’s what this is all about.