Warning: Don’t Let Anger Eat You Alive

The following four questions are a test of how well we are managing our anger.

  1. Can you think of a time when you sent an e-mail in anger, and then wished you could retract it?
  2. Can you think of a time when you were angry and exhibited passive aggressive behavior?
  3. Have you ever exhibited “road rage” when stuck in traffic… and you were late?
  4. Can you think of a time when you hurt a loved one with words you spoke in anger?

[tweetable]How are you doing in your management of anger? Psychologists tell us that one of the reasons that our society is so violent is that we have a problem managing our anger. It may surprise you to learn that, according to the Bible, anger is not a sin in and of itself. The sin is in letting the sun go down on our anger. The sin is allowing anger to build up inside us. The consequences of pent up anger are disastrous for us and others. The Bible urges us to keep short accounts with people, and never go to bed angry. When anger is kept inside, it will fester and explode into rage… when we least expect it.

This is what author and theologian, Frederick Buechner meant when he said, “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.” Ouch! Do these words hit close to home for you?

Buechner warns us that anger can eat us alive. This is why we shouldn’t go to bed angry. Instead, God instructs us to go to the person with whom we are angry; in an honest, straightforward and calm manner, and try to work things out. Keep short accounts. Don’t let anger build up. This is the key to keeping our anger under control. Anger can actually be helpful in stopping an abusive situation or in standing up for someone whose voice is not being taken seriously. Appropriate anger, that manifests itself in helpful action guided by distilled wisdom, can save someone’s life. It can be an instrument of justice in a chaotic situation. But …beware…anger that builds up can eat us alive.

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