Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Human anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose. (James 1:19-20 GNT)
I was recently in a situation where the anger in the room was palpable. We were all uneasy, the conversation was stilted, the expressions were forced, and the innuendo oozed like cold oil. The ironic giggles and chuckles were aimed to hurt others and were as pointy as steel-tipped arrows. No one could look at anyone except in frustration or vexation. Even the occasional conciliatory statement seemed barbed. After not too long, I was happy to finally get away from the ever increasing pressure in that cooker. As I was pulling away, I wondered what could have ever caused such intense anger in these otherwise – as far as I knew – very normal and regular people. I imagined that after I left, they all probably went to their own corners to stew in their own juices and sulk and do their work. Alone. Separate.
I’m not sure but I think anger is probably the emotional and communicative device that I prefer the least. When anger is vented in words and actions, it rarely is cogent, rational, or reasonable. I have a hard time dealing with others when they are angry – my inclination is to simply walk away until they cool and calm down. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and so I end up watching anger move through like a slow-moving and intense lightning storm – there isn’t anyone who is protected from the ensuing hurt and damage that is inevitably going to take place. It is hard to watch and especially hard to clean up after the fact. No, I do not like anger.
In Shakespeare’s Henry VI, commander John Clifford murders the young Earl of Rutland by whacking off his head and sending it to Margaret, the wife and queen of Henry VI. Henry was mostly crazy anyway so Margaret of Anjou was in charge. Clifford – in protest and to spite and hurt Margaret – took the head of young Edmund, put a crown on it, wrapped it up, and had it shipped to Margaret. Margaret said of Clifford: “Wrath makes him deaf.”
And so I also observe about anger. When the slightest inkling of anger begins to rise, all reason and equanimity ceases to exist. No wonder angry people rarely make good and long-lasting decisions. Nor do they, unfortunately, make good friends, either.
I have put together a list of observations that I hope I can better understand in my own personal life. Perhaps – during my D&D – I can resolve to be much better at avoiding or, at least, defusing angry situations using an understanding of some or all of these points.
1. Anger displaces reason – good decisions are not made in the presence of anger
2. Anger is easy – it’s easier to be angry than to be constructive
3. Anger is contagious – it spreads like wildfire
4. Anger has no bounds – the boundaries of anger only spread further the longer the anger festers
5. Anger is a sickness – an angry person has a hard time physically and spiritually healing
6. Anger is volatile – it kills!
7. Anger is the cousin of other stresses – fear, paranoia, victimization, prejudice, impatience
8. Anger can be generational – if mom and dad were angry, there is a good chance that son and daughter will be angry
9. Anger blinds – to words, emotions, healing, love, patience
10. Anger stunts – a person will never be a better person if the person is an angry person
Bonus: Anger separates – people who otherwise care for and love each other can be ripped apart by anger
The word “anger” in James 1:19-20 is translated to English from a Greek word orgé or ὀργή. This Greek word is loaded with meaning – anger, wrath, passion, punishment, vengeance, indignation. In a very literal sense, the translated word “anger” in the James passage not only can refer to a momentary or singular emotional outburst but the meaning can also suggest an on-going state of mind or a sense of pervasive angry emotion.
Anger is that way, isn’t it? It usually isn’t just one little thing that happens that can make you or me angry, is it? Rather, it is the sum of the hundreds or thousands of little duck bites that take place over time and against my will – right or wrong – and it comes from something that I can’t fundamentally control, right? Anger – the emotional outburst – is often just the tip of the iceberg when compared to the anger that is deep and cold and dark and that is firmly ensconced in the furthest corners of our souls and minds.
To heal, recover, and be refreshed – the point of my D&D – I must learn to avoid, control, and not be a slave to people who are angry people. The world is too fine a place with too many wonderful opportunities and too many sights and sounds to be dragged down by an angry attitude or an angry person.
– Don’t be an angry person.
– Don’t hang out with angry people.
– Be positive, constructive, happy, and thankful.