Wednesday, August 25, 2010
THE SIN OF ANGER
First of all let me say that I don't believe anger IS a sin at all. I believe it is generally to be understood as simply a negative human emotion. What you DO with your anger can become a sinful thing certainly. But when the bible says "do not let the sun go down on your anger" it is not saying anything about the nature of anger. It is advising us to deal quickly with something that can create real problems if left unattended. I also believe there is such an animal as "righteous anger." But that is the subject of another post at another time and ISN'T indicative of MOST of our anger anyway.
Anger is a lot like fear in the bible. It is usually addressed in a negative context but, if correctly understood, the problem biblically is with the ACTION that results from the emotion, not the emotion itself. When speaking about fear, Jesus said on one occasion, "Oh ye of little faith, why are you so fearful." The storm they were in would make ANYONE who is a thinking person a bit fearful I would think. But they awakened Him and questioned His caring for them...out of fear. Which indicates, by the way, that He must have gone to sleep AFTER the storm arose or the question is completely silly. So their action of waking Him up was done based on assuming He didn't care about them ['Look..He just went to sleep while we were in trouble.'] and was the indicator of their lack of faith.
I would think it wise to ALWAYS have a bit of fearful adrenalin flowing in the middle of storms, wouldn't you? Just don't do anything stupid motivated by that fear. The results can be awful. Anger is much that way. It is a powerful, albeit negative emotion, that can bring about terrible results when not properly restrained or handled responsibly.
Someone could be thinking..."Oh no, Paul Burleson is always talking about angry people and trying to get people to be nice to one another. Doesn't he know some things are worth getting angry about?" I admit to writing a good bit about the need to watch anger in life. But it isn't so much the anger I see in others that causes me to speak of it. It is that I see anger in others quickly BECAUSE I have experienced it in my own life for so long and have seen the hurt I've caused in relationships because of it.
In fact, I've found that what most of us spot quickly and wish to correct personally in others is what is really present in us. But we so often DON'T see it there at all. I finally saw it in me. It was not pretty. I've already stated that I believe our anger is seldom the righteous kind. [Except in one's own eyes.]
That said, I must confess that anger seems more prevalent in all venues of society today more than any time I can remember. Whether politics, television, radio, entertainment or even religion, people appear to be taking license with expressing anger and there seems to be little or no regret about it or taking responsibility for it.
So let's talk about anger.
Well, let me begin by saying that I don't think other people CAN make you or me angry. Anger in a person is not caused by the actions of other people. It is really the result of two things as I understand it.
One___is our thinking about what someone does. If I'm thinking.."They don't have a right to do that." Or, if I'm thinking..."They shouldn't treat me that way." Then I act a certain way...ie...withdraw into isolation, throw something, cry, angrily retort, get loud, or any number of things I can act out. You can see, I'm sure, that it was my THINKING about what they were doing that caused my reaction to their behavior.
But for me to say "I did it BECAUSE they made me angry," is to state an UNTRUTH. To say I chose to do what I did BECAUSE of my anger IS a truthful statement, but you are never a victim of someone else's behavior. There is, of course, the exception where you are robbed of choices were you to be, in fact, a captive to someone, which is illegal or immoral at worst and certainly an unhealthy situation at best, even if it's a marriage holding you captive.
But to believe you are a victim to what people do in normal circumstances of life and are made angry by their action is to reject the responsibility of choices we have as human beings. To believe otherwise fails to own our own behavior and we become a blamer.
The fact is we have a will and are responsible to use it as we choose, REGARDLESS of the actions of others, to be different in our own actions. But it is learning to "faith" [believe] who we are in Christ, [Forgiven/Free/New Creation] and then thinking correctly, responsibly, even biblically so that ultimately, in the power of the Spirit, we can choose, as Christians, to BE different in actions, regardless of other peoples behavior, that makes for good choices as Christians.
Two___my anger is not only caused by my own thinking, but it is also often present in me because of blocked goals. If I have a goal such as.."They are going to treat me right or else"...and "if they DON'T, then watch out," my anger tends to be felt and expressed. But neither the feeling nor the expression of it are the result of someone else's action. It is because I had a goal [To be treated right.] and no one had better keep that from happening.
Driving a car can illustrate the same thing. Four way stop. My turn. Someone jumps ahead of me. WATCH OUT. But they didn't cause my anger. I had a goal of fairness in taking turns at the stop signs and they blocked it and I had angry emotions because of my thinking that they had no right to do so. To illustrate this Larry Crabb once showed it this way....
"A is the event. C is the emotion. Most people think A__Causes__C. But A___doesn't cause ___C. The third ingredient everyone seems to bypass is B which is our thinking about the event. It is B___that causes C".
"As a man thinketh in his heart [mind] so is he." [In his actions.]
One of the best ways to grow is to accept as valid that you're not a victim to anyone or anything. As a follower of Christ we are empowered by a true knowledge of His word and the life of His Spirit within us enlightening that truth to our minds to live life in victory, not as a victim. So we CAN think clearly. Such clear thinking can produce different actions in us than are found in those who act like angry jerks. It can cause a taking of responsibility and choosing to NOT act that same way. Like an angry jerk.
It WOULD be wise to not let the sun go down on your anger by allowing it's presence in you to challenge you to responsible self examination about your incorrect thinking instead of playing the blame game.
Choosing to act Christian. What a novel idea.