Don't Be the Skeleton at Your Anger Party

February 10, 2022

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus teaches, in many different ways, that there should not be a sharp distinction between what we do and what we think. Consistency and congruency between our minds and our actions is the mark of maturing faith. For example, Jesus says, “You have heard it said, do not murder, but I say to you if you have any reason to be angry with a brother or sister, go to that brother or sister and seek reconciliation” (paraphrased, Matthew 5:21-22).

Anger can be as bad as murder if we allow it to destroy our souls, and our relationship and affection for the one with whom we are angry. Aristotle said, “Anyone can become angry. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, this is not easy.”

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun,” Christian theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote. “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and you are giving back - in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

Like all emotions except love, we cannot make ourselves feel angry or stop ourselves once we are angry. It is a response to some event or thought. For example, get angry now! Go on, get a frown on your face and experience anger now. You can’t do it. Even if we could start or stop our anger when we desire, there is no reason to want to. Anger is a useful and good emotion, when the energy it generates is used constructively. Paul says, “Be angry, but don’t let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Jesus gets angry when he sees the temple moneychangers cheating the people and cleanses the temple. God is angered by our sins. In 1980 a group of angry women in California started MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) in response to the death of a 13-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver.

All this sounds good, but what about in our lives where people hurt and tragedy tears us to pieces. Is there anyone who inspires your anger? Perhaps you have a lifelong friend who has stopped talking to you for no apparent reason. Many know what it is like when parents choose favorites, and we aren’t the one. We struggle for years, even decades to find self-worth. Or maybe you are the favorite and your siblings hate you for it. Perhaps the greatest anger is caused when someone hurts or kills someone we love.

There are so many stories of parents who have lost children in meaningless murders and violence. Some of those parents have the faith to look at the scriptures in their anger and their grief and read words like Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). They find themselves pouring out their hurt, anger, and bitterness to Jesus, finally praying, “Jesus, help me forgive. I can’t do it myself. Help me, please.” Then miraculously, they tell of being able to express forgiveness, even for someone who killed their loved one.

We cannot forgive like this without the power of God. We don’t want to live a life full of bitterness and anger or we will become the skeleton on the table of revenge. When do you have issues with anger? When do you find it hard to forgive? Is there someone right now that you want revenge against? How is the inability to forgive hurting your life? Is your desire for revenge enjoyable? Will that person ever hurt enough that you will be satisfied, and finally forgive them? Write or say a prayer to God to help you let go of your anger, how hard it is to forgive, and how hard it is to not seek revenge. Ask God to help you be free from the chains of anger and revenge. Life is short, don’t carry the burden of anger with you another day!