Monday, April 19, 2010

The Bigger Picture: Righteous Anger

For 27 years, I've lived trapped in a box of preschool feelings.

I feel and I internalize and I respond; and then I categorize those feelings as good or bad, wrong or right, validated or silly.

Happy has always been labeled as good. Anger long has been considered wrong. Sadness most normally has been evaluated as bad. And in my preschool, black-and-white view, I've been satisfied to leave my feelings in these limited spaces, trying desperately to focus on happiness, elude anger and tread lightly around sad. I've allowed myself grieve or anger deeply in a personal, silent manner, rarely letting it out in the company of others ... mostly, I've only taken these feelings to God or my husband or my mom.

But that's not working for me anymore.

I had a moment this past week where I spoke instead of sitting silently letting my anger brew in unseen places. My anger rose from deep inside a place I don't often go; I exploded in a way I haven't done since I was in my early 20s, when I was younger and less mature and more brazen and more self righteous. I stunned myself because since I've been in deep communion with Jesus, I've rarely had these types of outbursts.

After the explosion, I chided myself. I slapped myself on the wrist. "How could you let yourself come so unglued? How could you show such anger? That was so bad. That was so wrong. It was like you were 20 years old again raging against the machine."

I beat myself up internally. And then I mused aloud to my hubby. We talked about it on and off that day. We discussed the whys and ifs and should haves. I apologized for my outburst, even though I felt strangely weird in apologizing. Normally, I feel better after I lay down my pride and ask for forgiveness. But I didn't really.

Husband finally asked, "Why do you think all anger is bad?"

I couldn't answer at first. So I thought long and hard. Anger is bad ... because all the anger I normally feel doesn't feel OK. It feels weighted, like bricks are tied to my feet while I'm swimming in my own pool of disdain.

Finally, I answered, because it's not Christ-like.

"Oh?" he quipped. "How do you figure?"

So I went through about every Jesus scenario I could think of where He healed, He forgave, He embraced, He listened, He made new.

"How about when he stormed the temple and overturned tables?" hubby questioned. "He was angry. He didn't want people turning the house of the Lord into a den of thieves. Was He wrong for being angry?"

Gulp.

No. Of course not. He was angry justly. The same Savior who turned the cheek when people hurled insults at Him sneering "King of the Jews" while spitting in His face was justly angry when he overturned those tables and came unglued in the temple because it was defiling God's house, it was hurting other people. But when it came to them disgracing Him, he turned His cheek. Because that was nothing to to be angry it about, rather it made Him weep because people just did not understand who He was and how He loved them.

He had righteous anger, not selfish anger. And that was the difference. His righteous anger couldn't be labeled bad or no good or wrong. It was called for and perfectly OK. It was maybe even good.

Now, I'm not perfect, and I'm no Savior. But I finally understand that when I exploded this last week and anger came gushing out of every pore of my body, it wasn't a selfish anger. It was righteous. Someone I loved had been wronged. And that made me angry, piping hot beyond belief. It didn't have to do with me feeling like I was being served an injustice, it wasn't about me, for once, feeling like someone else had done something so wrong to me and isn't that so bad of them?

No, I'd turned my eyes out from self, this once, and overturned tables in the Temple because I didn't want to see the weak be taken advantage of. This anger couldn't be categorized into my comfortable box of bad or wrong or terrible, though I have plenty of other moments of internal rage that definitely are unrighteous and un-Christ like and completely selfish. And I hope to keep those embarrassing moments between myself and God. But I think I'd actually be in the wrong if I didn't speak angrily if I witness injustice again.


Because happy doesn't always lead you over the rainbow. And sad doesn't always lead you down a dark path to nowhere. And anger? Anger isn't always a journey to spite and hate. Sometimes it's a lit path to change and growth and maybe even justice. Sometimes it's unboxable. And because I'm no longer a preschooler, I should put away my simple boxes.

7 comments:

  1. Bravo.
    Really well done, and well written.

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  2. I struggled with emotions when my dad died. I finally had to realize that God didn't just create happy, contented me. He created my tears and grief too. To deny that part of me is denying Him. I think the same goes for anger. He didn't give us these emotions so we could always keep them in check. Who then would protect our children when they are being mistreated and unable to stand up for themselves? That doesn't mean we can go crazy and lash out angrily at anybody, but I do think anger is warranted at times.

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  3. Wow...beautifully written and so true. Thanks for this truth today. My anger is mostly selfish, but it's good to be reminded that not all anger is bad and to look to Him as our example in ALL things. Hope your dad is doing well!

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  4. I love this post! Beautifully written. I stopped by to let you know that I am praying for you, your father, and your family.
    On a side note, I love your blog's new look!

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  5. There is a lot to be learned from our anger. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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  6. "Anger isn't always a journey to spite and hate. Sometimes it's a lit path to change and growth and maybe even justice."

    I've come to it from a philosophical rather than religious perspective of course, but also a spiritual one. I do believe that emotions are there for a reason, good or bad is irrelevant, they need to be dealt with. Gulping down any emotion will cause a problem elsewhere. They don't go away, they just hide and fester.

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  7. "Sometimes it's a lit path to change and growth and maybe even justice."

    Such a profound and powerful statement.

    And can I say this? I think a lot of us who are adult Christians who were raised in the church have a hard time knowing how to express anger in a healthy way. Many of us were raised in homes where "happy" "cheerful" and "sweet" were the only acceptable emotions. Sad was okay, but anger was not, and we weren't taught how to deal with an emotion that is not only acceptable but also God-given.

    Okay, clearly I can get fired up about this topic, but I'll just leave it at that.

    Thanks for addressing this issue in a very poignant way!

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There's nothing better than good conversation ... but not while talking to myself. Will you play a part in this discussion?

AND will you pretty please have your email linked to your account or leave it for me so I can respond?

Thanks for taking the time to make these thoughts into conversation.

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