How to Deal with Anger
Think about one thing you have been angry about (yourself, others, circumstances
God). No worry, I wont ask you to share it.
Many of us feel guilty about having been angry. Anger is something that can stand
between people and us, and it can be between God and us.
Amazingly, however, the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4.25: "Be angry but
do not sin. 'Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in
Christ has forgiven you." So, apparently it must be possible to be angry, but not to
have sin because of the anger.
How does the story of Jesus getting angry and clearing the temple make you feel?
It makes me feel uncomfortable. This is perhaps the closest Jesus ever got to sinning. He
made a whip, drove out animals, turned over moneychangers tables. . . .
If you were a temple merchant, would you not think that this was an act of
violence? Temple merchants provided the Jews that travelled from all parts of the world
(Jews were of many different nationalities) with the things necessary for sacrifice that
they couldnt take with them on a long journey.
Lets look at why Jesus was angry though: people came to be reconciled to
God, to find righteousness in the eyes of God. And the first thing they encounter in the
themple--the one house of God where they could find atonement--is unrigheous behavior.
They got cheated. The sacrificial animals were overpriced, the currency exchange was
unfair. People were taken advantage of.
When I did my CPE unit in a mental hospital I learned that anger is really a
secondary emotion which is pushed up by a primary emotion--often a spiritual
concern or a spiritual need. Its almost like the metaphor of an iceberg. As we know,
only the tip--about 10%--of the iceberg is visible above the surface. About 90% of an
iceberg is under the water surface. Its similar with our emotions. What is being
pushed up is not necessarily all that is behind it. Anger is a natural human response, and
sometimes we even have anger toward God.
So what was Jesus primary emotion that pushed up that anger? Id like to
think that it was his sense of righteousness which was being violated. And so, Jesus was
cleansing the temple from gross displays of sin and injustice. And since there was nothing
in the laws of Moses or in the temple instructions about the right of businesses to be
there in the first place, Jesus policing action couldnt even be
opposed by the Scribes or temple authorities. He was in the right and they knew it.
But how does that help us to deal with our anger? I think we need to understand
why we are angry. I said earlier that anger is just a secondary emotion being pushed up by
a spiritual concern or need. If this is true then we need to dig deeper whenever we
respond with anger. We need to analyse our anger and open up to God to help show us the
spiritual need underneath.
Say for instance, if we expressed . . . anger at the state of the world: wars,
famines, earthquakes, or a situation in your own life . . . our spiritual issue may be a
feeling of helplessness. We may feel that God is not acting on his childrens
behalf--on our behalf. We may at a point where we ask questions like: God where were you
when this or that happened in my life? We may also feel very lonely, because God seems so
Maybe we express anger at others. Perhaps it bothers us when others break the
rules (e.g. they dont come dressed up for church), and through digging deeper we may
realize it is an unhealthy sense of responsibility we are burdened with or perhaps we are
burdened with an unhealthy measure of perfectionism. Perhaps we were always expected to be
perfect. Perhaps we were not accepted for who we are and are working our butts off to gain
acceptance from others. Maybe we need to realize that we need to accept ourselves the way
our Creator made us.
These are but a few of many possible scenarios. And of course, sometimes anger is
just anger, especially if someone attacks us or offends us. However, if there is recurring
anger in your life, and you explode at every little incident that comes your
way, I would like to invite you to try to identify the spiritual concern or need that lies
underneath this emotion.
God sees past our anger. God knows why were angry. He looks at us--even when
were expressing our anger at Him--and he sees our spiritual needs. And he is saying
to all of us: I want to fulfill your spiritual needs. I want to share my awesome
love with you. I want to reveal my awesome plans for you, and I want to be your God and I
want you to be my child. I love you so much that it hurts. I sent my son Jesus to die for
you, yes for you. And if you had been the only person ever living--I would have sent my
son to die just for you. Thats how great my love is for you. I knew you even before
you were conceived in your mothers womb. I made you. I want you to exist. I know you in
and out. And I accept you the way you are. Even if you are damaged by sin and by the stuff
thats going on in this world. Dont let your anger stand between you and me nor
between you and another. Open your heart for today I want to enter into your life in new
ways. Open your heart, my child, that I may enter in. Amen.