I never know what to do with my anger.
I am sitting here, looking at the dining table, staring at a bunch of tulips haloed by the Spring sun, but all I can see is black. My hands are trembling, and my jaw is set.
The offence that’s causing this rage is a relatively small infraction, but that’s not the point. I am inventing speeches in my head, the kind where the whole room starts applauding you and looking outraged on your behalf, and the person you’re addressing is so struck by your impassioned words that they fall to their knees, weeping, and begging for forgiveness. (Which you don’t give them.) I evil-smirk at my own mental image.
I am the good girl, and good girls do not get angry.
My mind shuts down with that one phrase.
I should be the bigger person. It doesn’t matter that I feel wronged. Why not be wronged? I am a sinful person, and deserve to be wronged.
I am wrong, wrong, wrong, and I try to suck in all the angry clouds.
If I breathe more deeply, it will go away, I say. I breathe. I breathe.
But it doesn’t. It simmers in my gut, like acid.
I love the church, and I love the evangelical tradition, but sometimes I fear it has not equipped me for dealing with anger, or indeed any strong emotion. I am here, carried on a whirling tornado of fury, and all the church says is, “Stop feeling angry.”
I wonder if that’s why preachers get scared about the passage where Jesus clears out the temple. Jesus gets angry, and he overturns things, throws them into the air, makes a mess.
So the first thing preachers do is to explain that Jesus’s anger is not like ours.
“That’s righteous anger,” they say. “One when you’re in control. Not like our anger.”
And I know that Jesus’ anger differs from my anger, but maybe it’s not as different as we think. He got angry on behalf of others, whereas at this very moment I am angry on behalf of my own injured self—but today, grinding my teeth in my bed, I wonder about the similarities between our anger. I wonder if Jesus felt that burning in his stomach, the adrenaline pumping in his veins, his hands shaking as he finally gave physical expression to the fury he felt at injustice.
Jesus was livid that people were excluded from worshipping God in the temple. He didn’t deliver a well-reasoned, moderate speech, he pushed over tables and scattered coins. He shouted his diatribe against the temple authorities.
What if Jesus gets angry on my behalf?
It doesn’t look very in-control to me. It looks a lot like my rage.
Jesus got angry, and he was good. Good people get angry. I know this needs caveats and qualifications, but I sit with this thought for a minute. My breathing slows a little.
Later that day, I confess to my Christian friends that I am angry. I am secretly looking for support for my minor injustice, but I expect them to tell me that I need to be the bigger person and swallow it.
Wonderfully, beautifully, they don’t tell me to be the bigger person. They get angry for me. Their voices join mine in pitch and energy, and they are telling me all the reasons I am wronged. They are furious on my behalf.
Little by little, I feel my anger dissipate: they have taken it for me. They are angry; I am soothed. It is a curious pendulum effect: as if there is a maximum amount of anger in the world, and because they have taken some, there is now less for me to feel.
After chatting with them, I rest my head back into my pillow, placated, when a thought flashes hot-white through my mind.
What if, when I get angry, Jesus gets angry on my behalf?
I had always thought that when I got angry, Jesus was up in heaven, hands on hips, frowning in disapproval.
But what if, when I get angry, Jesus is up in heaven, overturning tables and shouting frustration?
The thought is revolutionary. All my life I have thought that when you “give your anger to Jesus” it means you hand over your contraband thoughts in disgrace. But maybe, like my supportive friends, he is getting angry at injustice on my behalf, allowing my anger to dissipate naturally. This is what it actually means to give Jesus your anger.
I blink at the sunshine, overwhelmed for a second. The tulips, crimson and flame-yellow, look so fiery and full of life.
(This post was inspired by the women at The Angry Women Blog https://theangrywomenblog.wordpress.com )
Over to you:
- What do you think about the mix of anger and Christianity?
- How do you respond to the idea of Jesus getting angry on our behalf?
- What do you think are the similarities and differences between Jesus’ anger and ours?
- What helps you when you feel angry?