Thursday, January 16, 2014

Anger: More than Grumpy

We were waiting for the nurses to put patients in the rooms and had a few minutes of down time. It wasn't enough time to do medical records, so we had stopped to chat within ear shot of the television. I'm not sure which channel was on, but it had one of those "talking head" programs going. The problems with a prominent country music star caught my eye. There was something about an angry confrontation that didn't end well. The next two stories were about people having angry episodes. How crazy is that? Three news stories in a row about angry people! When did anger become trendy and newsworthy?

That triggered a conversation about the futility of anger. I can get as frustrated as the next person, and am probably too easily irritated by trivial things, but I don't remember the last time I was truly angry. That's a good thing, because the Bible has some pretty hard words about anger. 

Just to clarify, I'm not talking about "irritated and grumpy".  Anger is a strong emotion that involves displeasure and hostility and can spiral out of control if left unchecked. We like to justify anger with the "be angry and sin not" verse (Ephesians 4:26), but how many of us actually "sin not" when we are angry?  Sometimes we forget that the rest of that verse says, "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath". Of course that means thst we are not to hold on to anger. We are to let it go. The problem is not anger. The problem is hoarding anger like it was some kind of prize. If it is a prize, it's the booby prize. When we allow anger to take up residence in our lives, it can be deadly. That's what happened in one of those news stories today. Here's what Ecclesiastes 7:9 has to say about anger-in-residence. "Anger resides in the bosom of fools."  Ouch!  Did you get that? If you hang on to anger, you are a fool. I didn't make that up. It's a quote from the Bible!

I've dealt with patients of all kinds for more than thirty years, and I've seen enough angry people to last me a lifetime. I've noticed an odd thing. Both sexes can, and do, get angry. Don't get me wrong about that. It's women, however, who have the business of holding anger down to a fine science. I have seen women hold on to a slight for decades and keep the slight as fresh in their mind as the day it happened because of how often they rehearse it in their minds. ESPN replay has nothing in comparison to an angry woman. 

Ladies, I know you've had your husband ask, "What's wrong?" and given him the standard reply, "Nothing. I am fine." Of course "I am fine" is code for "there is big trouble here and you'd better watch out. A storm is just over the horizon." We laugh about these things, but I have bad news. The Bible says this is not a laughing matter. When we hold on to anger like this, we are fools and the act of holding the anger is sin.  Jesus had to die on the cross to pay for it. 

Well, that changes the perspective a little, doesn't it?  Let's look at anger and the resentment that builds when we hold onto it the same way God does. Of course, if we see it the way God does, we will have to respond the way He wants us to respond, won't we?  Let's release our anger, make a choice to calm ourselves, and demonstrate the sweetness of spirit that draws others to Jesus. What we will find is that, when anger is gone, there's lots more room for love, joy, and peace, and how great is that? 

Let it go!

Shalom. Peace.