“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:26-27)
There are always tensions between people in groups. We try to ignore these tensions or to smooth them over so they don’t lead to angry outbursts, preferring they remain under the surface.
It is not the “tensions” acting independently that cause the problem of course, but the people. Some folks are problematic, always seem unhappy, and at the center of controversy.
Perhaps such people are seeking negative attention — which in their minds may be better than no attention at all. Perhaps there are real and deep differences between people.
More often than not tensions are probably caused by misunderstandings or false assumptions — either honest or perceived. Our prayer and hope as Christians is that when these tensions arise in the Church, that we will handle them in keeping with the command to love our neighbor, and the admonition of Jesus that we forgive as we have been forgiven.
Irresponsible, unbridled, expressions of anger can lead to horrible consequences if left unchecked within congregations. This is especially true when it is the desire of someone, or a group, to cause problems and confusion using their anger and displeasure as an excuse.
We see this within congregations as individuals with unresolved anger issues try to find outlets for “venting.”
Often such ventings or manifestations are not an appropriate release of anger’s energy — especially if directed indiscriminately. Ultimately anger will find a release, acceptable or not — so, especially as those who are called of God, we must be willing to take responsibility for its expression and consequences.
Certainly there are times in which there are legitimate reasons to be angry — true injustices. That is not the issue. The questions to ask are, why are we angry, and how should we express our anger. We all know angry people, people who seem to simmer underneath.
We also know people who seem calm but that we know are really volcanoes waiting to erupt.
We cannot “fix” these people, nor can we make them happy. But we can perhaps understand them better, and avoid contamination — maybe even keep ourselves from following their example as we examine our own anger issues.
I strongly believe that fear is a root cause of anger. We know from Scripture that God is love, and that love casts out fear. Knowing that, we must also know that the first place we should go with our anger is to God. Examine prayerfully our true reasons for anger, get at the root of what is bothering us. What is our true reason for feeling the need to express our anger?
God calls us to be healthy and healthful examples of His love. He does not want us to live with fear and anger, but with peace and joy. It is fair to confess and to share, it is not fair to use emotion as a weapon to do purposeful harm.
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The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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