“Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.”
— Lyman Abbott (1835–1922)
Limits there are none, to anger. Most of it’s destined to end badly, though some is used to good effect, because it motivates positive change; the reformation of violence through virtue, from abuse to reconciliation through justice, and from neglect to understanding through an acknowledged duty-to-care. Much of the time our anger emerges from the sense of injustice that wrangles within. So, whatever we nurture within ourselves—a heart for the Spirit or a heart for sin—matters a great deal regarding the direction of our anger.
Teaching the art of anger is obviously about many things, but the principal thing is 1) what we are to get angry about; and 2) how we are to express that anger.
If we have nurtured that heart for the things of the Spirit, the Spirit will direct us regarding the things we are to be angry about. We won’t get angry so much about personal injustices, as we learn to bear them patiently, but we will get comparatively angry about the injustices that occur to others, and about meaninglessness in a world where meaning has a role everywhere.
If we have nurtured that sort of heart we will be judicious about how to express our anger, and when that might be appropriate. Much anger should be contained, but then, using the higher mind, converted to something good through innovated creativity.
Combining the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ of Anger
There are injustices everywhere and to these we receive our anger truthfully; in ways that allow God to speak to us.
Our Lord will never allow us to go free from punishment for exacting revenge in our anger, but the Lord will bless us if we can convert an injustice, through the virtuousness of innovation, in setting the injustice right—or working toward that end.
Many Christian mission organisations exist for this exact purpose. They work tirelessly for the social justice gospel, and, through such, evangelise—not with words, but via their actions.
If we will constantly audit ourselves for the things we are getting angry about, God will show us whether what we are angry about is the right thing or not.
There’s no sense in getting angry over inconsequential issues, which are character development opportunities. That type of anger will end up manifesting in sin, because it is pointed toward fighting for ourselves. We are best leaving personal injustices with the Lord. God fights better and harder for us than we ever could.
Of course, we are to teach these things to our children and grandchildren. Let this be a task we willingly and enthusiastically take on, always taking great pains to emphasise the importance of personal responsibility. We are each accountable for our emotions.
Teaching people, particularly children, what to get angry about and how to discharge that anger is crucial. Amidst social injustices there should be anger, but anger that motivates innovative actions of advocacy. Anger can be a great tool for the Kingdom of God, but sin is never an option.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.