Sunday, August 09, 2009

Getting Angry

Today I will be speaking on the subject of anger because the reading from Ephesians includes these rather perplexing words: "be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." Anger is everywhere in our culture but I don't address it often in sermons. Preachers tend to move straight to forgiveness even though it is often our persistent anger that requires forgiveness. Anger wrecks relationships and a lot of pastoral care is around dealing with this emotion which is often perceived as negative.

I say perceived because anger isn't always wrong. In fact there are plenty of occasions when anger is not only understandable, it is reasonable and just. We tend to get stuck in our anger and it undermines our spiritual and physical health and wellbeing.

I have some excellent stuff on anger written by Christians but there are a couple of really thoughtful books written by Bhuddists, including Thich Nhat Hanh and Robert Thurman. Thurman quotes Aristotle who in turn quotes someone else offering that wrath "is far sweeter than honey, clouding the hearts of men like smoke."

I find that church folk are often reluctant to express anger because it a religious taboo. But the anger is often there and can be manifested in depression or what I think of as "sneaky" anger. It's the "smile to your face but stab you in the back" sort of anger. No one is shouting, but they might as well.

Any thoughts about your comfort or discomfort with anger?


Deborah Laforet said...

I find that anger becomes depression or is "sneaky" because many of us have not learned how to express our anger in healthy ways. Anger is a healthy emotion. It can motivate us to make changes that are needed. I find that women especially are accused of being "catty" and vindictive, when many of us were never taught that anger was a healthy emotion. It was not an appropriate emotion for girls and many now fear it in themselves.

lionlamb said...

I think anger can be a healthy emotion, and at times it needs to be expressed, particularly in the pursuit of justice.

Unfortunately anger is a killer, literally and figuratively. The church has done a poor job of helping people discern when anger is healthy or unhealthy.

Both women and men learn unhealthy ways to express anger and men often justify violent anger as gender specific.