A Better Anger
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29, ESV)
In a recent PGA Tour event, Zac Blair altered the shaft of his putter by hitting himself in the head after a missed birdie attempt. His moment of anger gave him an early exit from the event after he was disqualified for stroking a shot with a non-conforming club.
I also struggled with moments of explosive anger during my career. After hitting a straightforward third shot on a par-5 into the right water hazard, anger pulsed through my body. A split second later I stood in the fairway feeling the shame wash over me as I held two broken pieces of my club. I never intended to break my club over the top of my head, but my quick anger resulted in a bad decision.
Righteous anger is focused and direct. It remains open-handed, feels very vulnerable, and offers choices.My anger has mostly caused harm in my life, toward both me or others. I now understand that decades of feeling the need to perform for acceptance created smoldering ashes that were easily set on fire by a failed golf shot. Over the course of my career, I started to mask my anger by becoming emotionally flat, which also leaked into my life off the course.
Today’s scripture, and others like it, seems to provide a space where some anger is good and life-giving, while other anger is destructive and harmful.
The theme “slow to anger” shows up in the ESV Bible 14 times. God is depicted as both being slow to anger (Psalm 103:8) and having his anger kindled against his people (Isaiah 5:25). Jesus felt anger: “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5). James wrote: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19).
Anger lives within each one of us. Whether it spews out or smolders under the surface, anger is a familiar response to an assault or a perceived injustice. Being slow to anger does not eliminate all anger, rather it points to how we should engage our anger.
Unrighteous anger is saturated with contempt leading to death of our heart and spirit. It is explosive and attempts to control the choices of others. It consumes others while trying to fill our own emptiness and gain love. It condemns others, making them pay for the exposure or pain we feel. It is a battle against God. The vulnerability feels too much to bear and we grasp instead for control. Unrighteous anger hurts, wounds, and destroys.
Righteous anger is a movement toward goodness (healing and reconciliation) and is wedded with desire. Righteous anger is focused and direct. It remains open-handed, feels very vulnerable, and offers choices. Righteous anger notices what deeper desire is being stirred that goes beyond the situation at hand. It summons the question, “What does my heart really want?” Looking inward to our anger first allows time for our face to turn toward God. Dr. Dan Allender says, “Awe of God must grow if our anger is to deepen in the direction of righteousness.”
I am going to make three promises: I will never break a club over the top of my head again, I will practice being slow to anger, and I will remain open to the desires that my anger is overshadowing. Jesus is blessing our righteous anger every step along the way. What would you like to do with your anger today?
May 12, 2016
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