It is impossible to estimate the amount of unhappiness there is in the world caused by losing your cool or blowing your top. Anger is one of the most dangerous and injurious sins of them all.
It ruins health. It demolishes peace at home. It leads to violence. It prompts open crime. It turns love into hatred. Friendships are interrupted by it. Anger is sort of a chain reaction. We get mad, lose our cool, spout off unpleasant words and often resort to rash actions, even violence.
The late Dr. Cecil Myers, a noted Methodist minister, once wrote that “Ours is an emotional age. There are so many things to irritate us. Living so fast makes us short of temper. ”
Before going further, let me note that there is a good kind of anger. When Jesus was about to heal a man with a withered arm, he looked on stern faces of those who resented his healing on the Sabbath. He looked on them with anger, being grieved in his heart for the hardness of their hearts. Jesus’ anger was never concerned with things done to him. His anger was always directed toward helping the poor and those in need. Jesus’ anger was in response to what was happening to others.
Now, I want to stress several positive things about anger that I hope will be helpful. At least, I have found them helpful in my life.
Anger can be constructive. Anger is constructive when it is understood as a normal part of life. The Christian faith does not expect that we will never get angry. Of course, we will. Indeed, if we have a distorted concept of Christianity that forbids anger, we are in trouble.
A well-known psychiatrist, the late Dr. Karl Menninger, tells us that the person who never expresses his or her hostility against things outside himself or herself will be giving it internal vent. And the phrase we sometimes use, “I’m really burned up,” may be the descriptive reality of what is actually happening in our bodies and personalities.
Hear me now. A healthy acknowledgment that there are things that annoy us can be very constructive. It can help us with our mental health within, and it can also help us with our noble causes without.
Anger is constructive when it is controlled. The problem with much of the anger we see around us and experience within us is that it is out of control. Longfellow said, “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
We are made for positive, creative living but when our anger is out of control, that machinery breaks down.
A cartoon showed a husband and wife having breakfast in a fine large home. Obviously, they had been arguing. They looked angry, sullen and bitter. She was shouting to him, “OK, OK! You want a hot breakfast. Then set fire to your cornflakes!”
Harry Peelor, a minister and author, said that he once heard a speaker ask the audience to remember one thing from his address. It was this statement: “Anger is steam.” Peelor went on to say that “if steam is to have constructive value, it must be under control.”
Anger under control can be a powerful force for good.
Anger is constructive when it ignites the conscience for good. Anger is not always the opposite of love; sometimes it is love’s clearest and most appropriate expression. There are simply some things that will never be changed for the good until somebody gets angry enough.
Candy Lightner was devastated by grief at the loss of her 13-year-old daughter, who was killed by a drunk driver. Her grief soon turned into anger, and she organized Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
One of our Methodist bishops stated it like this, “There are situations in life in which the absence of anger would be the essence of evil.”
But let me quickly add, there are also situations in life when the presence of anger out of control is the essence of evil.
The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.