October 31, 2007

On Showing Anger

The vast majority of Christians would say that anger is an emotion to be avoided and when it makes its way out of the recesses of your mind, it should be squelched or confessed. There are dozens of verses that contain the word 'anger' (go to www.biblegateway.com and type in 'anger.' Not only will you see how many verses there are, but you'll also see why some people avoid the Old Testament. God was not very happy in a lot of those books...but after you see that, go look at Psalm 145:8).

Most of the verses contain warnings about anger and its dangers (Proverbs 15:1, 22:24, 29:8, 30:33, Ecclesiastes 7:9 and more). So we've established through these verses and more verses like them that unchecked and unrighteous anger is wrong and should be avoided. But what if this anger is replaced by something just as damaging and just as frustrating to those who are its object?

I'm talking about passive aggressive behavior. The term 'passive aggressive' was first used during World War II by the military. In the beginning it was seen as a mental disorder that afflicted soldiers who wouldn't follow orders or avoided their duties. Most of the time when I hear people using it, (and in the way I'm using it here) it means that someone is not direct about their emotions (most commonly anger) and uses roundabout ways to express it. They bottle it up inside and use other ways to show their ire.

When did this become the norm for Christians? For people in general? When was honest confrontation replaced by avoidance? We are called to honesty and yet we are rarely honest about what is bothering us or what has made us upset. So instead, we bottle it up for months and make mental lists of all the ways we've been insulted or victimized or annoyed and we lie in wait. We wait for the perfect moment to unleash that pent-up frustration. Most often, this anger comes out in a burst, but sometimes it's in a manipulative, non-confrontational manner. Because Christians also hate confrontation. It's as though we've been brainwashed to believe that any sort of confrontation is wrong and we should never have these feelings so we should never let anyone know we have them. And yet we do have these emotions and instead of truly forgetting or forgiving, we just use them later.

My thoughts feel jumbled and I'm having a hard time explaining what I mean. The bottom line is that we all become angry and bottling it up without taking care of it or being indirect about it is just as wrong and just as harmful as letting it out. There is also such a thing as righteous anger. We are allowed to be angry when the anger isn't about pride (to put it very simply). Expressing anger by making snide remarks or sending passive aggressive emails or talking about your anger to someone else (but not to the person who made you angry) is wrong and is a cop-out. It's the easy way out for people who don't have the guts or the common decency or the integrity to be honest with someone. It can destroy a person and it can destroy a relationship.

It's high time we got over our pride and our self-righteous indignation and fessed up to our emotions.

1 comment:

Heather C said...

1. For the record, I have no guts. I'm not good with confrontations. I'll take the easy way most of the time.
2. I'm not afraid of righteous indignation. I use it often.
3. Did somebody make you angry?