By "it" I'm referring to anger.
It's important. Even necessary.
Our anger need not be squelched or swallowed, repressed or suppressed...but it need not lead either (or down a destructive path we'll go, harming ourselves and others!). This is what the Psalmist and Paul admonish in Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26, when they say "Be angry but do not sin."
In the book, Healing Spiritual Abuse and Religious Addiction, I ran across this quote by William Sloane Coffin, Jr. and it stopped me in my tracks:
Jesus was angry over 50% of the time, and it's very dangerous theology to try to improve on Jesus. The anger needs to be focused, but anger is what maintains your sanity. Anger keeps you from tolerating the intolerable.
Isn't that good news? Anger itself isn't a sin. In fact, it can even be Christ-like. So let's not set our anger aside too quickly (lest resentment builds and the volcano explodes). If we're willing to listen, anger has gifts it's willing to give. Two I've experienced and seen offered to those I work with in spiritual direction are energy and creativity.
A youth pastor sat slumped in his chair as he told me he had been lethargic and uninspired all week even though his ministry and students had experienced a traumatic betrayal by a respected church leader the week before. I thought his lethargy may be a protective measure shielding him from the force of his anger (which to him didn't feel too Christ-like, but Christ's life shows otherwise). So I asked him how he felt about the man and what he had done to the students in his community and he nearly leapt from his chair with rage! Gone was his lethargy of just a few minutes ago! And onto exploring deeply healing and creative ways of caring for himself and his students (and the energy to carry it out).
Feeling lethargic, burned-out or stagnant lately? Have you been afraid to be angry or express anger? Or is anger leading you down a destructive path, harmful to yourself and others? If so, it's time for a little reflection on anger. Read on.
Acknowledge your anger. Get to know it and its relationship with you.
Listen to what anger is trying to say. What is its message? Some examples may be...
Ask anger a few clarifying questions. Anger has some wisdom you could use, so be curious and ask.
A few more questions for anger to consider...
Reflect on what you've learned. What have you discovered about your present anger and its message?
I've found that once I've listened to my anger it becomes a wise adviser rather than a compulsive and destructive leader. Rather than taking its wrath out on me or others, it's much more willing to tone down or step aside. In fact, I find it's willing to...
Now that feels like sanity. And hopeful possibility...
May you continue to join Jesus on the way of life with and through your anger!
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.