I am generally an optimist — some would say Pollyannish.
I do get angry, but my constitution is more like Winnie the Pooh than Eeyore. This means that I have had as many people get angry with me for not being angry as for nearly anything else.
I have also (although not recently) made the foolish and insensitive mistake of suggesting that another’s anger was not useful or justified. I do not recommend that tactic. Whatever one is dealing with, doing so will only make it worse.
Anger is a difficult emotion to manage. There are certainly things in this world that should make us angry and yet we read in James 3:20 that “The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” I believe this to be a principle that extends beyond Christianity. Acting out of unchecked anger rarely produces the desired results.
There is also the kind of anger that gets into us through the avenue of self-righteousness. It can show up in sectarianism (my group is the only one that really has it right). It can show up in a social issue that has become attached, rightly or wrongly, to Christian morality — or more likely to a denominational form of Christian morality. When we settle on our issue and are certain that there is no nuance and compromise equals condemnation, we can end up in a very dark place indeed . . . and call it light.
I will say that this is one of the reasons that I am rarely satisfied when I hear a politician quote Scripture. On the one hand I am glad that we live in a nation where such is still accepted and even encouraged. On the other hand, most of the time it is used for the purpose of a particular faction, or as a signal, or to “claim the high moral ground.” But there is something else at work here. There are some attitudes and dispositions that simply will make quoting Scripture (or most sacred texts) seem displaced.
If one’s life does not cohere with the message of the book, there will be dissonance. This is what is happening when we hear someone in the public sphere quote Scripture (in or out of context) and our thought is not full agreement, but rather, “well, at least they are quoting the Bible.” These may successful promote an agenda with people who have a distorted view of Christianity, but only succeed in pushing others further away.
It is one thing to be right. It is another to carry the proper attitude so that one can be heard. Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751) wrote letters to nuns in a convent in Nancy, France in “Abandonment to Diving Providence.” This is part of one addressed to Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil concerning intemperate zeal.
“In the second place I command you never to speak of God, or of anything good, unless in a spirit of humility and meekness, in an amiable and gracious manner, with moderation and encouragement, and never with bitterness and severity, or in a way to wound and repel those who hear you, because, although you may only say what is in the Gospel and in the best books, I believe that in your present state of mind you might say it very badly and in such a way as only to do harm. Truth is the proper relation of things. It is changed when pushed to extremes, or wrongly applied. . . If you have nothing kind to say keep silent, and leave the care of deciding to others. As much as true meekness, with the help of God, has power to repel evil and to win to good, so much has an excessive harshness power to make goodness difficult and evil incurable. The first is edifying, the latter, destructive.”
There is much in this world that causes hurt. Taking an angry vindictive argument to those who are victims of such hurt — even if it is right — does little good most of the time. What we lack today is humility and meekness when expressing our views. Anger long held turns to bitterness and resentment. Internalized rage at anything will lead us to a path of depression and anxiety.
When Paul was encouraging Timothy to set some things straight he had this to say, “Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. (2 Timothy 2:23-25).
There is healing in genuine correction, and we all have needed it in our lives. It is one thing to be right. It is another to present it in righteousness from a source other than ourselves.