The sermon series continues with anger.
An angry person — not a person who happens to be angry at this moment, but a habitually angry person — is volatile, unreasonable, and suspicious. Hand in Hand and other gentle parenting resources say the same thing. When someone (child or adult) is in the grip of strong feelings such as anger, he is not able to access the rational part of his brain. There is no point, then, in trying to use reason to approach such a person. However, most of us have been raised to try to use reason — to “use our words” — when we negotiate with one another — we mostly haven’t learned other ways to deal with the angry, the tantrumming, the deeply sad or fearful.
Malice is a companion of anger — the desire to hurt, to exact revenge, to strike back, to lash out. One danger of anger, even anger that seems at first legitimate, against some injustice, for example, is that it can grow and solidify into a generalized rage that no longer has anything to do with problems and solutions but is only malice directed at anything that represents the enemy in any way. In the same way, anger can develop into contempt, in which the angry person no longer sees others as real and valuable people; there is no longer any possibility of love or ethics.
If we were, as Jesus taught, created to love one another, have patience for each other’s flaws, forgiving even imagined wounds — wait a minute. Is it useful to divide wounds and injustices into “real” and “imagined” categories? Is there perhaps a more useful way to think of the different kinds of wounds and injustices? I would venture to say that no one deliberately imagines a wound or injustice. Maybe they misinterpret something — maybe something about their past experience colors their perceptions — but that’s not exactly imagining. Perhaps a wound can occur that is a real wound to the one experiencing it, even though the one who seems to have inflicted it had no malicious intention?
But back to the idea that we were created to love and bear with one another and forgive wounds — if that is the case, where has all this anger come from that seems to have largely displaced love in the world?