Anger is a wonderful, powerful, amazing, informative, life-giving, protective resource. Or at least it can be. Anger can be a redemptive sword, when it’s wielded by love.
“Anger is a surgical weapon, designed to destroy ugliness and restore beauty. In the hands of one who is trained in love and who can envision beauty, the knife of righteous anger is a weapon for restoration.” – Allender & Longman
We’ve too often seen anger as the enemy, while all along it was begging to be our teacher. We’ve loved to pray and sing emotional ballads like, “Break my heart for what breaks yours,” but have we dared to sing, “Enrage my heart for what enrages yours”?
That sounds crazy, right? And scary.
As Christians, as cross-cultural workers, we’re way more comfortable with holy sadness than holy anger. And that’s not without cause; sadness is safer. More tame. Anger can destroy. Anger can harm deeply. Anger is like electricity — or fire. Both have tremendous potential to destroy, and even kill. But they also reveal, energize (literally), and make magic.
Have you flown on the fire of a jet engine, propelled through the night sky like a populated comet? Have you ever activated a dozen tiny suns with the flip of a switch? These miracles are astounding, and possible due to the power of white-hot fire and lightning fast electrons flowing on demand.
To be sure, arsons exist, but so do steel magnates. They both harness fire for their own purposes; one to destroy, the other to build. I’ve seen the burns and tissue damage wreaked by a lightning strike, but I don’t scream and run away every time I see an outlet.
Again, anger is just energy. It’s an emotion, neither good nor bad, neither healthy nor dysfunctional.
“Feelings are information, not conclusions.” – Greenberg
“Feeling angry or annoyed is as human as feeling sad or afraid.” – Greenberg
We have to be careful, at the start, that we don’t moralize some emotions as good, others as bad, some as holy, others as sinful. That’s not accurate, spiritually or scientifically. [See The Gaping Hole in Modern Missions.]
It’s also important to distinguish between the feeling of anger and the actions of aggression. The two are not the same thing. Greenberg offers this helpful reminder:
“Anger should not be confused with aggression, which comprises attacking or assaultive behavior. Feeling angry does not mean behaving aggressively, and people can be aggressive without feeling any anger at all.” – Greenberg
Chances are you’ve been hurt by someone who acted aggressively. Perhaps their anger/aggression left wounds you’re still recovering from. Chances are you’ve hurt someone in similar ways. So I understand if all this talk about the goodness of anger feels like bile in the brain.