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A Pandemic of Anger

There are two things a person should never be angry at,

what they can help, and what they cannot.

Plato

I’ve been thinking about anger lately.

Which is both interesting and perplexing to me because my personality inclines me to avoid conflict at all costs and anger feels a lot like conflict to me. If I get to choose, I prefer fun and laughter (with a little adventure thrown in for good measure!)

However, these days it feels as though anger is in the very air around us, tiny droplets of virus perhaps that we’ve somehow breathed in. It’s a sickness we didn’t realize we could catch and it would seem we’ve been negligent in taking steps to protect ourselves. Is it possible that in these times we’ve somehow also contracted something that doesn’t necessarily ravage our bodies but instead wreaks havoc in our hearts? Could this have happened, even in us personally?

Anger seems to be all around us these days; it is difficult to avoid as it boils over in our world. It’s in the news where leaders and influencers can’t find middle ground on issues. It’s on social media where people say all manner of nasty things without consequence. It’s in conversations where variances in opinion too quickly default to disagreement, accusation and then angry rhetoric. We observe all of it and it affects us, even when we aren’t active participants. For me, it all makes me feel slightly ill.

So what do we do? Are we above this all? How do we react when some (choose your own favourite word) cuts us off in traffic or won’t wear a mask or doesn’t clean up their dog‘s poop? Do we find ourselves saying strident things as we express our opinions to the people around us? And does seeing the apparent lack of patience and kindness in society, including those among us who lead, feed this anger?

As I wonder about all this – it occurs to me that anger might not actually be the disease, but rather a symptom of something deeper; an indicator of an underlying illness.

If so, what would this dis-ease be?

To help us think about this, travel back with me to Genesis 3 where we join the story shortly after God created His good world. The serpent convinces Eve (and by extension, Adam) that if they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - they will be like God. They’ll be able to judge, parsing the actions and intents of others.

But this was never part of God’s original plan, never His intention. (Hey, He just wanted to hang out with a couple of under-dressed vegans!) Adam and Eve, happily innocent, did not even know about the inclination to judge. Yet when they chose to listen and respond to the serpent’s temptation, everything changed.

And it has changed every relationship from that time forward, both with God and with each other. How sad! We follow along in their footsteps with our own inclination to be judgmental and discover, to our dismay, we do so as a result of sin. We observe how “the knowledge that comes from knowing good and evil” creates sanctimonious people who judge others, which, inevitably (and here we close the circle) leads to anger!

How does this anger show up?

We notice it when we begin thinking and maybe even saying, “My opinions are right and yours are wrong. You must be stopped in your wrong-headedness and I will not hold back from expressing very bluntly the error of your ways!“ (We seem to have long ago left behind polite speech.)

Scripture tells us that our good God is, at His core, LOVE. When He judges, parsing actions and intents, He does it from a place of deep love. We struggle to even vaguely approximate this characteristic of love, and as it is increasingly alien to our culture as well, we get drawn in and often at best, clumsily mishandle the capacity to judge because in us it stems from a root of pride, not love. Are we then doomed to live with this disease of pride? Is there any hope for us?

Yes! Jesus is the cure for our sin-infected soul. He is the “vaccine” – the one who protects you from this dis-ease. He heals us from the anger that follows when our pride is hurt. When Jesus saves us, when we invite Him to become the boss of our lives… He forgives! He adopts us into His kingdom and He makes us NEW! We are no longer alone in our battle with pride and anger. Such good news!

Paul wrote these words over 2000 years ago to a church of people much like you and me. They struggled as we struggle, and so he said to them, and us as well:

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold….Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love… (Ephesians 4:26-5:1 sections)

Walk in the way of love. Difficult? Sure, but so freeing! We can truly live this out because Jesus has healed our hearts.

My invitation to you? Pay attention to your life. Notice where you’ve given in to the sickness of pride-driven anger. Start each day by asking God to help you choose love over anger. And be assured He makes it possible. Trust Him. He is good news and He invites you to be good news wherever He puts you in the world!

Blessings on you my friends

Susan Thiessen

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