There is a fine line between righteous and selfish anger, and I’ve noticed I tend to ride that line quite closely. I am always wound up in a way that seems as if an explosion of screams or tears could erupt at any moment—and that isn’t the way we were designed to operate. It’s exhausting to feel this way all the time.
Stewing in our anger and dwelling on everything that frustrates us (not just good, righteous anger) is never the way to engage the Heart of God in and through us. Yes, Jesus did flip the tables and drive people out of the temple, but He only did it once, and His anger was rooted in righteousness. He didn’t come back to the anger after taking action every 2 days and talk about how incredulous he was at the manner in which things had gone down. He didn’t rehash a desire to flip more tables or release more animals. He simply allowed anger to be a motivator for Kingdom work.
But where we are consumed by anger, we are more easily manipulated by Hell.
And, don’t get me wrong, anger is a good thing sometimes. Anger against things like racial injustice, human trafficking, abuse—all of these horrifying realities need a little anger driven at them to help overcome them further. But even in our anger that is good and well-directed, we are not to be consumed by it.
One of the most fascinating things I’ve noticed in survivors of violence, specifically human trafficking victims, is not the anger they feel or have directed toward their kidnappers and abusers but the pity and authentic forgiveness they have. It is the most God-like expression of forgiveness I could ever imagine. Is there anger there? Of course—I’m certain of it—I would be angry if so much was taken from me. In fact, there is a large handful of people rescued from trafficking who eventually go back in to working to end human trafficking. The pity and forgiveness does not stop the action—it actually encourages justice and relief in a way that is unique to the pursuit of biblical freedom. The greatest lesson I’ve learned from them is that anger does not have to be in charge. Anger helps drive change, but it only damages if it’s given total control.
“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
And another thing—anger is exhausting. It only takes us so far, and once it has reached past the point of helpfulness, it produces weariness, which I can attest to all-too-well by the many hours I’ve spent in tears and frustration, lying in bed with an overwhelming sense of injustice. And yet, when I came out of that overwhelmed anger-state, the problems that were frustrating me were still present and nothing was solved by my anger because internal turmoil doesn’t solve external realities.
Actions speak much louder than anger, and they bring about a lot more change, too. We can be angry all day long, but if that anger isn’t accompanied by fruitful endeavors, we’ve done nothing of importance. I think we’ve convinced ourselves that passionate anger translates to effectiveness, but unfortunately for us, it does not. I know rather well—if it did, I would be the most accomplished woman in the world.
Even well-directed anger is still easily manipulated. The most accurately righteous anger we can have is what we aim at the kingdom of Hell, and even then, that anger, too overbearing and too obsessive, can become unhealthy. Anger at the kingdom of Hell also only goes so far—too much anger makes us ineffective, which is exactly what Hell is aiming for in our lives anyway. Where anger is king, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and inconsistency reign supreme. Anger, when left to do as it pleases, becomes prideful and self-righteous.
And at the end of the day, anger is an emotion—an important emotion, but an emotion nonetheless. And as much as our emotions can be helpful, they also incline us to getting hurt rather quickly when left unchecked. Anger is important and it’s good, but only to the extent that it draws us into greater Holiness and more effective actions of Justice and Freedom inclined to the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” (C.S. Lewis) Anger, in any capacity, will do the same as Lewis mentions of good and evil. We must be quite self-aware to do well enough to catch ourselves in the midst of being overcome by anything but Holiness and the Presence.