14 years ago, I was furious with my husband Roy for some just-discovered crime or misdemeanour, and since he was teaching at the moment (in those pre-mobile phone days), and I couldn’t call him, I called our pastor. (No, I am not joking!)
Had Roy been at the end of a phone, it would have gone somewhat like this: I would have yelled, explaining all the things he had done wrong, exaggerating his wrong-doing, my very words making me angrier. He would have answered in kind, raking up my past wrong-doing, an eye for an eye, his very words making him angrier.
If the row had had shades of Armageddonish, the nearest object might have become a projectile missile—and occasionally did!
* * *
So, I tell the pastor all about that now-forgotten, but I am sure absolutely heinous offence—his messiness; something he’d said he’d do but did not; lack of adequate and suitable domestic help probably. I express my rage.
And he says, “Okay, you’ve told me. No need to tell him too.”
I, “But I am still so angry. What can I do if I don’t express my rage to him?”
He, “Don’t tell him. Tell Jesus.”
* * *
Cheesy, huh? Except this particular man was a cool Midwesterner, and the opposite of cheesy.
And over the years, I realized that that is, probably, the best way to deal with anger.
* * *
Biochemically, anger is a build up of adrenalin. The fight-or-flight response says “Fight.” We have to do something about this build-up of adrenalin. Somehow discharge it. Many women clean when angry, apparently. (Effective or not, you, at least, get a clean house!)
When I am sensible, I walk when angry, getting times among my personal best. I mentally compose withering, scathing emails on my walk and when I come back, I am so calm, I’m like: “Now what was that I wanted to say?” My fury has dissipated.
* * *
But having a walk-and-talk with Jesus is the best. Express your anger. Don’t minimize it. Anger is like a red light on your car: “You’re out of gas,” it says. “Stop. Refuel. Change the oil, perhaps.” It can be the impetus to overdue changes in our lives and relationships. We ignore this powerful emotion at our peril. Ignore it, push it underground, and it surfaces as depression, or as the sudden fit of rage and irrational actions which trip us up (Prov. 4:19).
Having expressed it your rage to Jesus: Go to his healing fountains. Let them flush out and cleanse your soul.
Call out as desperately as the man who wakes his friend in the middle of the night, “Jesus, you see my soul. You see how angry it is. Send your Holy Spirit to soak, drench and saturate it. Maranatha.”
And if you can get calm enough to pray about the sources of your rage, sometimes words are given you to resolve the problem without all the shouting, all the sin. When you speak the words given to you by Him who is the Word, they achieve more than hours of fighting which, in general, achieves precisely nothing (positive).
* * *
Sometimes, we need scripture to flush out the darkness of our soul. Once, in a dark November, when a fellow Christian was annoying me, I put on I John and James on repeat on my ipod, and listened to it, again and again, grace rushing through my soul, calming it, sweetening it.
* * *
Sometimes, we just need a little bit of sanctified intelligence or Jesusy thinking to deal with our anger.
On my travels, I sometimes encounter rudeness, or snootiness, or dishonesty or attempted or successful scams.
And I am cross. And for years, I have been telling myself the same thing, “Why should I let their bad behaviour, their sinfulness, rob me of my peace?”
I tell myself that often. “Why should I let X’s sinfulness deprive me of my peace? Use your brains, Anita. You are not without sin. Why should you expect other people to be blameless? Anita, just release the rascal into the waterfall of God. Step into God’s waterfall of grace yourself.”
* * *
Yes, sanctified intelligence and faith help us deal with our anger.
Think of the greatest injustice you personally have experienced. Which made you the angriest?
God know that was going to happen, from the beginning of time. That event, that injustice is just seed, neutral raw material in his hands, from which he can, at any time, bring something beautiful.
* * *
I have another solution to anger. Remember God.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? (Gen 4:6)
Have you been cheated, defrauded?
Who creates wealth? Creates the world and everything in it. Bestows wealth on whom he pleases. Cannot God give you at the snap of his fingers far more than you’ve been cheated of? Forgive.
Have you been betrayed, slandered, lied about, back-stabbed? Tell God. If God is for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31). No one can block a career or a vocation which God ordains.
Have people wasted your time, used your energy, used you to further their own agenda?
Goodness, girl. Who created time? Who can stretch it, infuse eternity into it, so that you are astounded at how much you got done in an hour, a day? Who can ensure that the work of minutes is read for centuries, like Pascal’s Memorial is?
God can give our work wings.
* * *
Hey, whatever is annoying you, the sheer annoyingness of the person, the situation, the injustice, it’s all in God’s hands.
He may have deliberately put that person into your life for you to learn the one thing which all the law, and the prophets and the teachings of Jesus come down to: Loving kindness.
* * *
Much anger is selfishness, stemming from blocked self-centred goals and desires. And then we need a heart-transplant. We need repentance, literally metanoia, to change one’s mind.
We need God’s magic: grace to change, soften, and convert our souls.
Grace alone, which God supplies. Strength unknown, he will provide.
Yes, Grace: God’s magic. Flood my soul with it. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.