I wonder if you’ve noticed the same phenomenon as I have. For, if we are kind and caring towards others you’ve got to keep the effort up constantly. It just doesn’t come naturally. And that is also true of being kind and caring to yourself.
On the other hand, if you become angry it seems so easy. In fact, if you get angry often enough, you find it becomes a habit. And before we know it, you are angry at everyone you meet, at life in general and perhaps even yourself.
Well, all that suggests we should never get angry but strive for a calm and collected manner at all times. Oh, if only…
Yet is there a good form of anger as well as a bad form of anger?
Well, in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 23 we heard about Jesus getting angry. He’s not the Jesus ‘meek and mild’ of the childhood hymns. In fact, he gets himself into proper lather over the local religious leaders and their attitudes.
For, after warning the crowds about the religous leaders, he goes into the so called the ‘seven woes’. And if the listening clerics were in any doubt of their shortcomings before, after Christ finished speaking, they were fully in the picture. In particular their hypocritical, self-serving and over-critical words and deeds came under a godly blowtorch.
Here then is an example of righteous anger. Here is an example of the right to be angry. Here indeed is a form of anger that we could cultivate without fear of harm to ourselves. In truth, with it we might even do some good for others.
And what’s the reason for that?
Well, first of all, this anger shows our passion. In other words when we see injustice, nastiness even downright cruelty, our well expressed anger demonstrates passion. It shows we care. It shows that our guide, mentor and master cares. Even more and at the risk of sounding grandiose, it shows God cares. Anger then not just gets us noticed, it can get a good cause noticed as well.
Secondly, genuinely righteous anger can energise us.
Since, if we feel true emotion towards something that needs changing, then anger can jump-start our batteries. It can make us get up and zoom off. It can compel us to thirst for justice, compassion and respect. Let then our anger follow Jesus’ advice and crystallise not into bitterness but into desire for service.
Because anger that is well focussed can bring change. Now, one of the platitudes we so often hear is – you can change no one except yourself. If that was true then Jesus would not have wasted his breath that day. For he sought not to condemn the religious leaders but to change them.
Anger then can often be our engine for change. It can inspire us to take another look at ourselves. It can goad us into examining others’ motives. In all honesty, anger can propel us to find the strength to change people for the better. And it is that type of change which is the root of peace, harmony and reconciliation.
Many years ago the film ‘On Golden Pond’ was made. Starring as it did Katherine Hepburn and Henry and Jane Fonda, it was really about the anger of growing old. Fonda Senior plays a retired academic facing memory loss on their annual holiday to their lakeside cottage. They are visited by their daughter, Fonda junior, who foists her young step-son on the couple before departing for a european vocation. At first, the old man and boy are angry less at each other than their situation. But in time, the pastimes of fishing and boating have their effect and they become great pals. The daughter too has always been angry at her overbearing and disapproving father. Yet when she returns, and after doing for the first time a backflip into the loch, she gains the old curmudgeon acclaim and so anger is resolved into consolation.
However, the film’s making has a deeper subplot. For Jane Fonda was famously an angry young woman championing many political and social causes. Henry Fonda was, in many ways, quite the opposite. Not surprisingly, father and daughter in real life were estranged.
But Jane put her anger to good use. For she bought the plot of ‘On Golden Pond’ for her father. The result was he won his only Oscar at age 76. But, at the ceremony, he was too ill to attend so Jane accepted it on his behalf. She said that on hearing of the award, Henry Fonda had quipped – ‘Ain’t I lucky!’
As we read again of Christ’s anger, let us set aside lassitude and mirror his anger. Let us set aside self-interest and disinterest and engage this faulty world with anger. Then let that righteous anger bear the righteous fruit of determination; a determination to cause change and a determination to cause an improvement. Then, as we look at what we have achieved, we too could quip – Ain’t I lucky; ain’t I angry.