Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I wonder if you’ve ever heard of Gilda Radner. She was an American comedian and actress. She was born in 1946 in Detroit and came to fame in the mid-70s in the US as one of the original cast members of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
She appeared on many hit shows on American TV. In 1980, she married actor Gene Wilder, and made several movies. It was during the mid–80s when she became ill. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and received chemotherapy and radiation. During one of her periods of remission she wrote a book entitled It’s Always Something. In it the comedian described her battle with the insidious disease as being ‘in a room of anger’. On May 20 1989, ovarian cancer claimed her life, and she died aged 42.
I don’t know if you ever felt you were in ‘a room of anger’, but anger is a common feeling for most of us . Anger is perhaps the most common of the seven so-called ‘Deadly Sins’. One writer has called our time ‘the Age of Rage’. Anger is, indeed, common in our culture. You don’t have to go far to see anger and threatening comments. Anger abounds!
Anger is common in our homes. One research study asked a large population of children this question, How do you wish your mother was different? The number one answer was, I wish my mum didn’t yell at me so much. This was the response of 98 percent of those who answered it.
Children get mad, too. Some kids are offered anger-management classes. Whatever our age, we have probably been mad, angry, ticked off, put out, upset, enraged by somebody, something or ourselves at one or more times in the past. Perhaps more a fundamental part of our human condition than a ‘deadly sin’, anger touches us all at some level.
It’s OK to get angry
I would like to say that it is OK to get angry. Some of us may have been reared in homes or congregations that taught us to never get mad, that anger is a sin and is wrong, and that Christians are not to get mad. If you were brought up in an environment of suppressing and denying angry feelings, you need to be given permission to get in touch with those feelings and own them as real and valid.
Ever had a disagreement with your spouse, partner or friend and denied your feelings of anger? Through clenched teeth, folded arms, and a red face, you insist, There’s nothing wrong. I am not mad. Your words are saying one thing, but your body language is sending an opposite message!
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul said, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27 – NIV). Paul acknowledged the reality of anger in our human lives. It is OK to feel angry. We begin to manage our anger by admitting we are angry. We own up to it, realising it is not a sin to feel angry. The Psalmists more than once write of the anger of God. The writers of the gospels use the word ‘angry’ to describe Jesus’ feelings on more than one occasion.
You and I are human. It is normal and healthy and OK to feel anger. We begin by acknowledging that common part of our human condition. Having said that, once we have owned our anger, we need to take care of it. That is the point of Paul. He does not just say, Be angry—he writes, Be angry, but do not sin.
Sin is the destructive outcome of not dealing with our angry feelings. In order to take care of our anger, we need to discover its source. Anger is really a secondary emotion brought on by something else.
(To be continued in Anger – Manage or Damage – Part 2)
Dr Michael Dent 2012 Trinity United Methodist Church
1820 Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80202