Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple


Prayer as Anger Management

posted by Mark Herringshaw

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.”   



  • Salcia

    Point well taken, but what if it’s not righteous anger? Some people get explosively angry because the steak is overdone or there’s a knot in their shoelace they can’t get out? Or if they’re angry over something reasonable people would get angry about, but their anger causes them to punch holes in walls or throw things? I think the “extinguishing desire” approach can work with a certain type of anger.
    But on the other hand . . . an approach that talks of getting rid of all desire probably doesn’t seem too possible to somebody who rages when desire is thwarted. I wonder, what kind of approach to prayer might help somebody whose problem is too much anger, with too little provocation? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

  • Bob

    You may have the gist of the blog you are referencing right, though I doubt it, but you have seriously mis-characterized Buddhist thought and Buddhist practice.
    This is quite a normal when people look at Buddhism from the outside and quickly grab a couple of ideas and think they understand. I don’t even mind your saying what you said, but I would encourage you to look deeper into Buddhist literature and maybe talk to a few knowledgeable Buddhists before using us as a prop for your next essay.
    At the level of your analysis of Buddhism, a Buddhist might similarly INCORRECTLY understand Christianity to be a religion of weak passivity that encourages its followers to blindly rely in faith and prayer rather do anything practical for themselves or other human beings.
    I KNOW that Christianity says much more than this and I hope you get my point and I apologize in advance if my words cause you any consternation rather than provide a simple starting point that might help you better appreciate the teachings of the Buddha.
    Most Buddhists make a real effort NOT to distort Christianity or any other religious, or even non-religious, belief system. Most of us believe that we should show utmost respect for the beliefs of other people and that we should always treat their religion, its symbols, temples, clergy, and sacred texts with as much respect as we would show for the parents of a very good friend. We recognize that the other person’s parents are not our parents, but we also recognize that they are worthy of the greatest respect.
    If anything in the above does not make sense, please respond and I will do my best to correct my mistake.

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Bob,
    I apologize for the edgy and “too certain” tone of my post. You are right to point it out. Perhaps I can try again.
    As I understand, Gautama, the Buddha sought to curtail suffering through resignation and detachment. Once he achieved his own enlightenment he passed on his wisdom as the “Four Noble Truths.”
    * All existence involves suffering
    * All suffering stems from indulging desire
    * All suffering will cease with the suppression of desire
    * To achieve the end of desire a person must follow the “Noble Eightfold Path” of right belief, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right endeavor, right though and right meditation.
    I realize this is a simplistic rendition, but such is the limit of this medium. For Buddha, freedom comes when we embrace peace and acceptance and refuse unfulfilled desires that give suffering its power.
    The marked difference between Christianity and eastern religions is the view of suffering in the world. For Buddhists, life is suffering; for Christians suffering comes from brokenness that must be healed. Suffering for Jesus’followers incites what some Christians call “holy discontent” or even – as I suggest – anger. Instead of encouraging acceptance, as a Christian teacher encourage fury and frustration aimed in a direction of transformation. I never want to make a treaty with suffering; I want to let Jesus through my life continue his fight against suffering.
    Again, I apologize for my caustic manner. I appreciate your respectful challenge.

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Salcia, and your point is well taken! Anger itself is not right or righteous. But it can be a tool of motivation. On the other hand anger can be very destructive. Often we don’t know how to handle the gift that it is. My point is that God can use this volatile emotion to share with us his heart and to drive us to join him in battling evil. The solution to anger problems I believe is not to suppress emotion but to channel it in a constructive direction. When anger is aimed at another person that of course is not constructive. You offer a wise caution. Thank you.

  • Sheilah

    I think anger is good for certain things, like feeding starving children and other causes that help people’s general welfare and well-being. Most of my anger in the past came from feeling not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough and it seems that when I got angry my vision was trained to see everyone’s comments as feeding those things. Praying and asking God to fix me worked for me. recently I worked with someone who was bossy, immature, and just rude it made me angry and I lashed out at her a couple of times. I prayed for God to show her a new way to do her job (her immature, bossy and rude ways were for the same reason as mine were).
    I used to be just like her and as I prayed God showed me that those things were not who she was but symptoms of who she thought she was. I began to pray then for her to see things differently and it helped me to feel more compassion and love for her, not that it took the anger away but the anger changed from not liking her to feeling helpless because I couldn’t help her.

  • Sheilah

    that’s when the anger can be used to find a way to help someone, that’s good anger and productive. the other is not. I feel much better praying for a way to help the person then to fill myself with hatred.

  • Ron

    Scripture says: (and I’m sure you all know this) –
    Eph 4:26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
    Anger in itself is not wrong. It’s as you said Mark, “God gave it to us”. But it’s what we do with it. So squelching it won’t work. We will reap that seed sometime in the future
    Ron

  • Ron

    By the way Mark – I picked you and this blog up on Twitter.
    R

  • Matthew

    Not even in eighth grade can we get away with referring to another source without any substantiation (ie, an official reference, a quote, an organization mention, something.). Also she clearly has no clue about Buddhist teachings. Buddha never taught passivity or resignation. Buddhist have rallied & died for social justice & moral causes thousands of years previous & in far greater numbers that Christians have.
    In fact, what she is trying to teach is exactly the same thing that Buddha would have. That we need to look deeper than anger to see it’s source. We call it prayer they call it meditation. Either way the call is to ask earnestly of the Lord and of our deepest selves to help us discover and heal the root of turmoil in our lives. THEN, most important – Listen carefully for the answer and have the faith to act or change as we have learned.
    Unfortunately she forgot to mention the fundamentals behind this concept and the most important piece that catalyzes it into a call for action.
    I’m disappointed; there’s no content here.
    This is just the kind of thing that has the church scratching their heads as to why the new generation is so diverse in it’s beliefs. It’s this consistent oversimplification & diluting of our relationship with our creator and the world around us.
    Of course always have faith – but this resting your entire argument on the power of prayer approach only works for the devout or people who don’t think about this stuff. Who is the target audience anyway? If it’s skeptics, you failed to include any appeal to them, if it’s Christians, you haven’t illuminated anything.
    Above 5th grade this would fail with no quotes or references, worse assumptions and paraphrasing without references.
    Let’s rewrite the whole thing in one sentence, better than it was.
    “Yes the anecdote to anger is praying, listening then redirecting your energies in part by giving insoluble efforts up to the lord through our savior Jesus Christ.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment anthony

    wow…that is simple, yet amazing!!!!!

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