Anger: The Fool’s Feast
we were driving on I-40 around the High Point area when I noticed a Tanger Outlet billboard. The “T” in Tanger had fallen off, and there in bold letters was “Anger Outlet.” I began to reflect on how that would be a real winner if it were actually true! An outlet for your anger; a place to drive by and dump it! That’s a dream, and also a great need. A survey of readers of this newspaper would show a great deal of anger—at the world, at your job, at your husband or wife, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your political party, the country in general, your pastor, God, even yourself! There seems to be a seething anger just beneath the surface in our society that bursts forth in everything from road rage to divorce.
Frederick Buechner, the Christian theologian and novelist, once said, “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibility the most fun. To lick your wounds, smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the taste of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you have been given and the pain you are giving back—maybe it’s a feast for a king! But what you are wolfing down is yourself.” How true those words are!
Years of pastoral counseling and personal experience have convinced me that (1) we don’t understand the power or the nature of so much of our anger; (2) we get mixed signals from our head, our heart, and the Bible; and (3) we often mishandle both legitimate anger and destructive anger. There are times when we ought to get angry, and times when our anger springs from bad motives.
A woman was asked by her counselor how she handled her hostility toward her husband. Said she, “After he goes to work, I swish his toothbrush around in the toilet bowl.” There actually are better ways to deal with anger! Let me make a few suggestions for you to think about.
First, try to understand the situation and those involved. Ask yourself, Could I possibly be in the wrong on this? Remember that none of us are perfect! Second, ask yourself what kind of anger am I feeling? Is it a buildup of feelings against the person, or is it about a wrong deed? Is my anger building up or tearing down? Would Jesus be angry on this? (Unless you are a serious Christian, you won’t be asking this, but if you are even a card-carrying church member it is perhaps the most important thing you could ask).
Third, think about what your explosion of anger does to other people. Put yourself in their shoes; how would you feel? Decades in the pastorates have taught me that so often when there is conflict in the church or anger against the pastor, it is because that is a safe place to dump our anger. I remember a woman who had grown up in the church where I was pastor, moved away and later came back. I could do nothing right in her eyes. Then when I finally confronted her on the matter, she confessed it was nothing I had done; it was simply the changes that the town and the church had gone through, and even the pastor was younger than she was!
Fourth, if you need to deal with another person on an issue, do it soon and in love. If you put it off, it will simply simmer and boil until it boils over in a way that is not helpful. Remember what the Bible says—“don’t let the sun go down on your anger!”
Well, the sun is shining just now; it’s a good time to deal with your anger.