THE CONSUMING NATURE OF ANGER
Some people relish and enjoy their anger. Frederick Bueckner says it clearly:
Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.²
I have never met anyone, anywhere in the world, who has escaped the destructive force of anger, or who has never experienced someone else’s anger as a destructive force. The one single problem that everyone is plagued with universally is anger. Some writers say anger is neither good nor bad. It all depends on how you use it.
Some writers use the term “righteous indignation” which motivates a person to correct mistreatment and injustices; if this is correct, then people will be angry the rest of their lives because there is always something you can be angry about. Some go so far as to say that anger is God-given.
The Latin root for anger is angere which means “to strangle.” I find the definition of anger helps clarify the real situation:
ANGER: emotional reaction, of displeasure and/or antagonism—an inner frustration—an impulse to retaliate, punish, seek revenge. Anger can vary in intensity from mild annoyance that is hardly noticeable to extreme overmastering rage resembling insanity. Anger can trigger an outward display ranging from a light change of expression to destruction or murder—from a mild word to enraged screaming.
Personally, I have never experienced anger within my body as a positive force. It has always been a hindrance to intelligent straight thinking and constructive rational behavior. And in my work as a counselor and business consultant, I have never observed anger to be a positive factor in problem solving. I have never found anger to be righteous. From the slightest shade of anger that we may not even be conscious of to the anger that leads to murder—it is all cut from the same cloth.
In an instant, anger can change a person from being satisfied, cheerful, and relaxed to being dissatisfied, unhappy, and tense. Oddly enough, this sudden change within the body is triggered by something that happens outside the body. Life would be much more pleasant and comfortable and relaxing if only we could find its cause and cure.
If there is a topic about which there is universal agreement, it would be that unrestrained anger can destroy us. It cannot be ignored. It must be tamed.
But if there is a topic about which there is universal disagreement, it would be how to tame anger.
If there is anger in your heart, someone may either do or not do something that instantly triggers anger inside of you. Someone may say or not say something that immediately triggers your anger. Something happens or fails to happen that triggers your anger. Thoughts about the past, present, or future can trigger your anger. Angry emotions can vary in intensity from mild annoyance that is hardly noticeable to extreme overmastering rage that resembles insanity.
THE PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF ANGER
Anger produces disagreeable bodily changes that cannot be ignored. Almost everyone is familiar with the following:
- pulse rate increases
- heart beats faster
- blood pressure rises
- the throat tightens
- the mouth is dry
- gooseflesh appears
- hair is erect
- pupils of the eyes open wide
- eyeballs glisten
- person sweats, blushes, turns pale
- muscles tense
- highly alert
- desire for physical action increases
- insomnia may be present
- colon and/or stomach problems appear
Anger can trigger some action ranging from just a slight change of expression to destruction or murder. Anger may result in a mild word or enraged screaming. Anger can, but seldom does, motivate a person to seek changes that will improve the environment that triggers the anger.
To grasp how frustrating anger can be, look at the range of people who can trigger an angry response in you: babies, parents, marriage partners, children, friends, people at work, total strangers, yourself, clerks, neighbors, officials, people in social gatherings.
Circumstances can also trigger anger. The range varies greatly. P.T. Young reports the results of asking a group of college students to keep records of what stimulated them to an angry reaction. Here are the results: unjust accusations, insulting remarks, not invited to a party, disobedience of children, criticisms, contradictions, scoldings, unwelcome advice, work left undone, being locked out, money being lost, sleep interrupted, physical pain, thwarting self-expression.³
Recently, someone even told me that he was angry at the weather. I am sure that you can also add to the above list.
The question is: “Can God help?” The answer is emphatically, “Yes!” His help is decidedly different from human or self-help.