Last week a friend sent me a link to a website featuring articles about “anger management.” I’m not sure if he felt I needed this information, but he did ask what I thought about the approach. I had to tell him the truth: the site made me a bit angry.
The gist of their message is that anger in itself is counter-productive. The authors admit a Buddhist worldview and state up front that they believe anger stems from “unfulfilled desires.” This is consistent with classic Buddhism. Suffering, according to Buddha’s teaching comes from unsatisfied passion. His solution: we must extinguish all desire, and passively accept life as it comes. Resignation, Buddha taught brings peace. We must cease striving and acquiesce. This form of “anger management” means essentially eliminating emotion as well as the capacity for emotion. I must kill desire itself.
Not me. I’m not willing to resign from desire; God help me if I ever am! Acceptance is no way for me to handle suffering, or the emotions sparked by suffering. If something is wrong, if injustice intrudes, then I WILL welcome anger, because anger can motivate change. The truth is, I do get angry, but not angry enough, and not always about the right things. If by anger management we mean directing our passion toward real change, well and good. But if we mean to castrate fury for passivity, count me out! When something is truly wrong with the world, I want to feel the pain of that wrong and strive to see it righted.
Take for instance the plight of 27,000,000 people held as slaves today. Yes, that’s 27,000,000! And what should be my response? To know that, I must first ask how God feels. Does he take sides in the mattter of human trafficking? Absolutely he does! God hates injustice and grows angry over it. When a child is sexually abused, or a widow is robbed of her savings, God feels fury. And so should I.
Personally I’m not very comfortable expressed emotions. Experiences I had as a child taught me that feelings can be dangerous. I learned to monitor them and to try to control them carefully. But I no longer believe this is healthy. I am beginning to proactively identify and express my emotions.
But beyond letting fostering healthy anger, what should I do with it? I must act where I can, yes, but I also must pray and ask God to act where I cannot act. Healthy anger can motivate me to appeal to God to bring justice and stop injustice. Prayer is what I can do in the face of an injustice when otherwise my hands would be tied. Prayer is my best anger management.
“God may I love the things you love, hate the things you hate, weep over what breaks your heart, and laugh and dance with you when you are delighted. Share with me your heart! And when I come upon something that grieves you, remind me to pray and ask you to intervene and make the change.”