Why Get Angry?

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“Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”  James Russell Lowell

“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”
James Russell Lowell

Our granddaughter, Claire, turns a bright shade of red, the same as her parent’s living room sofa, when she is crying for her next feeding or a diaper change.

I think she’s adorable when she gets angry, probably because I like feisty girls. And probably because I wish I was one of them. Instead, when thing aren’t going my way, I weep and whine.

My daughter and I got tickled several times when Claire balled up her fists and held her breath until her lips turned bluish because she was so mad about her wet diaper.

When Claire hit her mom’s chest with a clinched fist during feeding time, we guessed she was annoyed about not getting her milk fast enough.

Too soon, though, she’ll grow up. And too soon, we’ll tell her anger is unacceptable even though, for now, it’s keeping her fed and changed.

We’ll talk to her about her tone of voice, not getting an attitude, and the expression on her face. She’ll raise her hip and put her hand on it. We’ll tell her to stop. If she speaks her mind, chances are she’ll be labeled.

As a result of messages like these, for years I denied my anger. It wasn’t until I talked timidly to a friend about being furious with God that I was able to get in touch with the feeling. She said, “God gave you that emotion. I’m sure he can handle it.”

I felt freer each time I told God all the things that angered me about how he ran the universe and my life. I wrote my grievances down and blamed most of them on him. I spewed on paper what I would never say out loud. I even cursed a little. Okay, a lot.

Instead of God’s punishment for my anger, I experienced relief.

Instead of his rage in response to my anger, I experienced our restored relationship.

Observing Claire’s anger makes me think it is time to weep less and wail more. Not that I think allowing her to be disrespectful is a good parenting practice, or that I think it’s okay for me to go around screeching at people to get my way, but I do believe there is purpose in anger.

After all, Jesus turned over tables in the temple, God’s wrath is recorded, and the newborn he recently placed in our family is getting nourishment and care because of her angry outbursts.

I’m exploring anger, and I would appreciate hearing what you have to say.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – This post brings to mind what I heard a speaker say in her talk about emotions, “Our anger lets us know it is time to set boundaries for others, that it’s time to stand up for ourselves.” Maybe it is.

On the side: The number of negative quotes about anger surprised me. It unquestionably has a bad reputation.

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11 responses »

  1. You raise such interesting topics. I have a dear friend who says I love mental stimulation & your blog sure does that for me.
    I do believe you have to have some awareness of your anger- degree, how it will be expressed & to whom you are letting it out to. If you feel safe- go ahead. If uncertain- consider consequences. I often say a measure of a good relationship is how well you travel, fight & make up.

    • Roz, thanks for your kind comment. Your comments do the same for me – they make me think.

      I totally agree … weighing the consequences is something I learned the hard way and I can’t have too many reminders not to go back there. Thank you for that. The older I get, a safe environment for expressing myself has become one of my top priorities. Funny, my blog is one of those places thanks to readers/commenters like you.

  2. I’m just now learning how to deal with years of “denied anger,” It’s very hard and is a process to work through. For me also, it has to be done with God’s gracious love and help. I was so used to hiding it, I never even prayed about it. That is changing, resolve is showing, peace is coming, and boundary lines are drawing. Yet another insightful and precious blog Kim. Thank you.

    • Additionally, we are sometimes mislead as Christians that we shouldn’t get angry. That is so wrong! It’s how we do it that counts. Does it really matter? Are we still acting in love? Are we forgiving? But flat out not acknowledging something that leads to anger and bitter feelings fester is a sin.

      • Such an insightful comment, especially “I was so used to hiding it (anger), I never even prayed about it.” Oh my, that’s me! And until you wrote it, I still hadn’t thought to pray about it. Not really. I guess writing down my anger was a form of prayer, but I didn’t think to intentionally pray. I will from now on.

        I agree, how we handle our feelings is most important. When we’re reacting instead of acting, we’ll surely miss the mark (sin).

        I appreciate your comment!

  3. I think your granddaughter has two good mentors to help guide her in dealing with feelings of anger. Justified or not, anger is a strong emotion that can destroy – often the person who’s angry. It can also be channeled into fuel for constructive action. Anger in itself is not bad; its bad reputation comes from how people deal with it.

    A very Godly woman I am privileged to know often tells of her battles with God when she’s angry about something. She too pours it out and expresses her true feelings. He listens. He wants us to unload it on Him. When we allow Him to take on some our overwhelming negative energy, we make room in our hearts to deal with the source.

  4. Anger is like an old straight-pull Ross rifle – you never know when the bolt is going to break lose when you shoot the thing, and take half of your face off.

    I walked through a lot of years with a lot of anger, and I was not a very nice person to be around. Was it justified? Sure. At least, my therapist thought so.

    But in the end it was a burden that I chose to carry. It didn’t hurt those responsible for what made me angry. Death had already placed most of them beyond my reach…I’m reminded of a line from a Sean Connery film: “What do you want me to do? Kill him again?”

    And vengeance, when the opportunity did present itself, was a Pyrrhic victory.

    I’d like to say it was prayer that helped me, but it wasn’t. I’d like to say that God placed peace in my heart, but He didn’t.

    He just let me know that it was my choice, and one I would have to make every day, every hour, for the rest of my life. Gentleness or wrath?

    It’ll never be over for me, and perhaps it shouldn’t be. On seeing a child or animal deliberately hurt, I’ve taken some fairly decisive action. Summary justice does not trouble me, in theory or practice.

    And I guess that might be it – I’ve learned to harness the rage, to some degree, and to allow it to work for the good in specific situations. And when it passes, I can pick up the rosary I dropped and continue my decades.

    • Andrew, so true about the choice being ours between gentleness or wrath. Most days I choose gentleness and most days I should. But every once in a while, I realize I would have been wiser to choose wrath, which would have meant taking better care of me and my family. It’s a fine line sometimes.

      I also relate to God letting you walk through it. I wanted him to help and I guess he did. He helped me grow up as a result of having to manage my emotions.

      Thank you for being you.

  5. God can handle all of our emotions, especially anger. As you mentioned, he gave us that emotion and I believe it is okay to be angry at God, though when we are I believe He kind of chuckles at us thinking, “My dear child, if you only knew my love for you and how I can mend and soothe your angry heart.”
    In Ephesians, it says to not let Satan have a foothold when you are angry, so as long as you are turning to God it is “okay”. But the Ultimate Text also says not to be angry for long. However, I believe that if you go to God with your anger (especially if it is towards him), he will reconcile your feelings and soothe the wounds.
    Also…cloth diapers saved our lives (and ears) Gwen would cry whenever she had a drop of pee in her diaper. With cloth she cried less!

    • Jessica, thank you, thank you. Your encouragement means a lot.

      I’m sure God chuckles when I’m throwing my fits. I also know he’s the one who can mend my angry heart, but sometimes I don’t want to be mended. I want to be mad. I know, I’m ridiculous. 🙂 I have to say, though, God’s handled me and my anger very well and I’m coming around.

      Claire’s mom and dad have fallen for G pants (the best cloth diapers ever). You’re right, they are life savers. Gwen is a lucky little girl.

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