October 21, 2018
As a man with a bad temper, I know how easy it is to get angry and to stay that way; how easy it is to want to exact the last bit of punishment from the wrong-doer; how easy it is to be victim, judge and executioner all at once. And I know how satisfying it is to have one’s enemy withdraw in tears, never to return; it is almost as good as – and certainly as effective as -- exile or the guillotine. And I know how unutterably wrong all of this is!
It is wrong because it is unreasonable. As an emotional thing, anger is unreasonable by definition.
It is wrong because it is fruitless. The victims of my anger almost always find good reasons to condemn my anger. My bad mood fails to punish and actually justifies their wrong!
It is wrong because it allows the rest of my life to be shaped by their misfeasance. Once they are gone, my world is what it is because of what they did wrong!
It is wrong because I cannot get forgiveness from saying the Our Father until I have forgiven and sought forgiveness. You know the line: as we forgive those who trespass against us…
But, what about justice? Don’t some people and their deeds deserve punishment? Are we not allowed to seek an eye for an eye?
I suppose so. But human punishments cannot outlast the lifetime of the punisher. If I die before the villain, I miss the last little bits of his suffering. This is a great frustration! If he dies first; an even bigger frustration! Besides, for some crimes, there can be no justice, no suitable repayment to society or injured parties or those who love them. Nothing restores what or who has been lost; and the loss to the criminal is nowhere near proportionate. That is why the New Testament warns: The wrath of man worketh not the justice of God. After all, he lives forever.
And then, there are all the double standards that we use. My anger is justified; yours is not. My adultery is excusable; my spouse’s is not. My thievery is only taking what is due to me; yours is just greed in action. My crimes are understandable – hardly crimes at all when you know all the circumstances; yours are just unacceptable.
As for the crimes of a third party – the crimes that you
and I identify and loathe – our anger is really righteous indignation!
A mountain of anger does not prove that the crime involved is larger than a grain of sand, or that the criminal is some sort of monster of iniquity, or that I am one ounce more virtuous than he.
So this is the bottom line: sometimes we get hurt; always hurts need healing; but anger uses the hurt to fuel an engine of revenge that destroys the life of another and allows the hurter to reshape one’s future. It also robs the injured party of the one power that only the injured possess – to forgive. It makes us truly impotent!
If you have been hurt and seek healing, we can talk. If you are just angry, listen to Christ before you say or do something that is unforgiveable.
Really and truly and abashedly yours,