A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White

Anger

“Who considers the power

of your anger, and rightly

fears your indignation?” (Psalm 90:11)

Anger is omnipresent. Daily we read or hear words about anger from the various forms of media in our purview. In the last ten days, it marched across our country from California, to Texas, to Chicago to Ohio. It’s not a new happening. We read vestiges of it from ‘The Beginning.’ In Genesis, Esau was angry with Jacob who stole his birthright. Anger flows through Scripture, and we find that Jesus became angry with the money changers outside the Temple and tossed their tables aside. Throughout the ages, we find one example after another, how anger altered our world, and if we look closely, how anger can alter ourselves.

Francis Scott Key is the author of the famous words, “… the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Key penned those words in 1814, and today they conclude our national anthem. Currently, might I also suggest that our nation, in addition to being known as the land of the free and home of the brave, is also a land of divisive anger. Anger is an emotional response that can cause one’s blood to boil, and in the worse of circumstances, it can cause blood to run river-like out of others. Almost like visitors to a zoo, we stand and watch wide eyed what seem to be a multitude of violent acts against humanity, for that matter, creation. We watch and hear with shock and horror as the acts multiply.

I suggest that anger is omnipresent, part of who we are, as Yeats would say, part of our “Unity of being.” We tend to be single minded in our goals, inclined to put self ahead of the many. Bees don’t like to be swatted away from sweetness, babies don’t like to be awakened from their naps, animals don’t want to be interrupted during their meals, for that matter, we don’t like to be interrupted mid-sentence. Of course, some anger is righteous, when evil overpowers good. We are called to be indignant, angry, when someone is bullied, or worse. However, some anger is selfish. Some don’t like to share, even when there is more that any one individual might need.

I believe that anger, by itself, is neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s what we do with it that matters. If something angers you, do you let it fester inside, rotting away your soul, like a cavity can destroy a tooth? Or, when you become angry, do you use it for good, motivating you to change a situation, or yourself, for the better?

Juvenal wrote in the first century, “Whatever men do – prayer, fear, anger, pleasure, joys, comings and goings – that is the stuff of which my little book is made” (Satire). Perhaps Juvenal was paraphrasing God in scripture. Our emotions and acts are a part of who we are created to be. God knows/considers them each and the power of them. Nothing is hidden from God. While we ought consider/fear the potential negative power of anger, however, we are to remember our call to embrace the power of anger for good.

As the late author Toni Morrison wrote, “If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” If we are Christians, then we ought to respond to God’s call to love and care for our neighbors, rather than being angry with them. In so doing, perhaps our whole world might become Our country/earth tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty, of Thee we sing.

To God be the glory!

Amen.