“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19, NIV.
Most Christians know the above passage from James and I’m sure many non-believers have heard it too. Regardless of your beliefs, it’s a powerful passage and I think most would agree that it’s good instruction for living our daily lives. All three aspects of instruction are good and worthy of discussion; for the purposes of this post, I will focus on the last one.
I have struggled with anger, more specifically my expressions of anger my whole life. I spent most of my adult life justifying angry outbursts – “why can’t I show my anger by shouting, slamming, throwing things, etc.? Other people do it and I’m not hurting anyone.” I used to tell myself this all the time – in my weaker moments, I still do. There’s a lot wrong with this. True, there is nothing wrong with anger – even God gets angry, but there is a difference between what I describe above and God’s anger. Angry outbursts make people feel uncomfortable, even unsafe. Also, for me and I suspect for others if we’re being honest, most of what sparks an outburst has more to do with frustration over unmet, self-imposed, self-centered expectations. God’s anger is always righteous, having to do with injustice toward others – what we are called to care about. So next time you feel an outburst coming on, think about its source – is your anger righteous? If so, will an outburst serve the party in need? My guess is no.
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