Because here is where anger snags me way too often: Anger rears its ugly head when someone I love is doing something that is damaging to them or other people I love, like grandchildren. And if I do not have the habit of tossing all that promptly into God's able care, too often my fear-filled, angry words only add to the hurt, to both my own harm and as collateral damage to others.
It is so hard because sometimes it comes out of the blue with a snarky email or unexplained coldness or an angry retort I did not see coming, and before I know it I'm spewing self-righteous rage rather than seeking the words of peace that God offers me.
So I've thought rather a lot about this and here is what I believe:
I'm angry when I am frustrated or afraid. I'm old enough to understand the likely outcomes of foolish behaviors and I am so afraid I did not do a good enough job of raising my children or helping my family or being there for my friends. I'm afraid the shortcomings of others are somehow my responsibility.
I'm angry when I'm so full of sorrow and grief that I don't know where to put it. I really want to just go out in the back yard and lay down in the grass and stare at the stars and try to remember how to breath, but I don't have a back yard anymore and I'm pretty sure the Home Owner's Association has rules against such things.
I'm angry when I'm ashamed. Sometimes I do the most foolish and hurtful and dangerous things when I'm "all het up" and "in a tizzy". And seeking forgiveness for MY bad behavior is never much fun. Though it is probably a really good reminder to get off my high horse and keep my feet solidly planted on the path of forgiving others, because I am so in need of it myself, all too often.
But sometimes I'm angry because I'm embarrassed when someone in my family, someone I love has behaved badly toward me and I slip into feeling I've earned being belittled or abused or taken advantage of, though I am in no way responsible for the anger or behavior of another. (Really, being responsible for my own errs is a big enough job for me.)
I'm angry when I don't live up to my own responsibilities, make mistakes, wish I had done something differently.
I'm angry when God is not doing what I want God to do, when I think my way is better than God's plan, when I expect my demands should be met because I'm so overwhelmed I just want God to FIX IT NOW.
I am angry because I don't know how to bear the pain, fix the problem, make things better, quit making things worse, and nothing feels OK..
So here is what I find helps me: I speak or write my anger TO MYSELF (because letting loose of my tongue while I'm still flaming has never made any situation better). And while it is not wrong to BE angry, (even Jesus was angry at greedy behavior of people in authority), it is helpful to look at the anger to see what is standing behind it -- what is driving it. Because, sisters, so much of my anger is far more self-righteous than righteous. So I ask myself....
Am I afraid? Of what exactly? Are there steps I need take to be safer?
Am I overwhelmed by what is going on? How can I get a little space to calm my heart?
Am I angry because I let others down and myself too? Am I clinging to a sin God has long ago forgiven, but I'm still chewing on?
Am I angry with God? Have I told God about my feelings? (God is OK with that.)
Am I angry because I feel stuck and exhausted and hopeless?
Considering these things helps get my brain engaged and my heart treading water rather than flailing about, and my breath starts slowing (and if I've been mad walking, I start to slow down and realize my feet are hurting). And once I start talking to God about all my anger, I begin to remember that God has never deserted me or sternly demanded I "get it together." Instead, at all times God does wait patiently for me to lay my feelings (even the ugly ones) as an offering at His Feet. Yet in my anger I too often forget to start with God!
Because in the end, anger and its roots in fear, frustration, shame, embarrassment, self-condemnation, and loss of hope all are under God's authority. Unfortunately sometimes we get so familiar with such things that we are less than wholly willing to let them go. God helps with that too when we ask.
My mother told me that anger never leads to surrender, but exhaustion does. So it is God's blessing that God allows us to truly feel our anger and fear and frustration and shame and embarrassment and self-condemnation and loss of hope so that we can get tired enough of all to truly long to lay it down, allowing love the room to break through. Each bit of anger that we surrender creates room in us for God's abundant peace, allows us to embrace God's love, healing, hope and joy.