Anger Management

ship stuck in iceburg

As I suspect we all have all noticed of late there is a lot of anger out there. I’m guessing that we are all feeling frayed and move to anger much more quickly and it’s doesn’t always seem to be related to the event that might set us off. We are frustrated by too many things dealing with Covid-19 and the rest that it seems we have lost all perspective at times, I’m thinking of the protests about wearing masks for one.

This seems so counter productive to me for it is obvious that the wearing of masks is a simple thing we can do to protect others. Yet, I get angry over those who won’t do it. Angry in a way that is at times threatens to consume me, there is also a lot of other stuff in my life right now that makes that anger trigger to go off at the least infraction it’s not a pretty sight. Here is where I try to turn to an author that has always spoken to me. Here is what Frederick Buechner says about anger in his book “Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC.”

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it’s a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

Frederick Buechner

That’s not a pretty picture is it? Yet for many it is the truth and it hard to find your way out of this angry place. There is much to be upset and angry about. A friend lost her Daddy this week to COVID-19. A month ago he was alive and vital, now he is in God’s hands. This didn’t need to happen, but it did and we are left to deal with it. There is a time for righteous anger, the anger of “Black Lives Matter” is real, as in those who are African American have put up with police brutality for too long! 401 years of righteous anger will take time some time to get over.

Yet we cannot spend all of our time in anger, as the quote above says we are feasting on our selves! Not a very healthy endeavor is it. As St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Right now that is no easy thing, so in closing I ask that you not be trapped by anger, but embrace Joy instead. Here is what Buechner says about Joy.

“In the Gospel of John, Jesus sums up pretty much everything by saying, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy might be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11) He said it at the supper that he knew was the last one he’d have a mouth to eat…Joy…is as notoriously unpredictable as the one who bequeaths it.”

Joy is harder to find these days, believe me I know how difficult it is personally. My life is hard and at least I am relatively healthy and have some connections with friends. I do spend more time in anger than in joy. I am effected more deeply by the hurts and slights of those who were once friends. Let alone the hurt and anger I have inflicted on them. I’m working on joy though. To me joy and courage have always been related, perhaps because the French root word for courage is Coeur, as in “heart.” To have courage to embrace joy is to have heart. It’s to have a compassion for others. It is to forgive if at all possible and let the joy of Jesus fill you. If you are facing a lonely future, an uncertain one, don’t give in totally to anger. Find the joy I believe it is out there still.

Let us pray...

Oh Lord, there is so much to be angry about. Our world is turned upside down and not in a good way. Too much anger, too much hatred is filling our hearts. It is poisoning us to the needs of others. Please help us to put away our anger and embrace the joy you feely give. For the sake of us all we ask for your compassion, your consolation for those who grieve and those who are filled with righteous anger! Amen

John Hergert

John Hergert

Retired ELCA Pastor

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Connie

    Your words spoke the truth of how so many of us feel.

    God’s Peace be with all of us.

  2. Penelope

    Thank you so much. The Buechner quote is so useful, whether a person is angry about something personal (like a nasty divorce) or something communal (like all the many injustices in the world).

  3. Mary Braudrick

    John, Thank you for your strong words, & the wise words of others. Choosing joy over anger really is a deliberate act of personal courage. No one else may see that decision, but God will bless it.

  4. Di Seba

    Yes! My struggle exactly. I have good Christian friends and family on both sides. It is hard to hold all in respect and love.

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