“Be angry, yet do not sin…”
So wrote Paul the Apostle as he gave great practical advice on living out our relationships with one another.
Many years ago, a friend read this out to a group of us while also making an honest admission that he found this piece of advice “incredibly difficult to live out!” He was simply echoing what we all felt – it’s so easy to quote this statement, but extremely hard to follow!
Difficult or not, we all know from our own personal experience that anger can lead us to do and say things which are harmful and destructive.
What is it then that drives our anger, causing us to lash out at others?
Psychologists and counselors will tell you it’s fear.
One author describes the relationship between fear and anger in this way:
“Fear of the unknown is akin to the fear of loss. When we don’t understand something, we fear that it will in some way rob us of things we hold important. For example, suppose that a strange man calls up wanting to talk to your wife and he refuses to explain why or identify himself. This unknown typically generates fear in your mind. You’ll think of the worst possible scenario that is based on the possible loss of your wife or her affections to a strange man.
This will lead to anger.
The reaction of this husband’s anger is based on his fear of loss. Because he fears the loss of his wife in some capacity—physically, emotionally, or even that of not being good enough for her—he will react in anger.”
The same author goes on to say:
“Few people know how to deal with fear. Our internal defenses are not well equipped to deal with fear. It can paralyze you. It can rob you of the ability to think. It can create fear upon fear. For most people, the only effective means of combating fear is with anger.
Anger provides us with a weapon to use against the source of our fears. We hope to destroy, in some way, the basis of our fears and therefore be freed from our fears. In effect, we combat a strong, negative emotion with another strong and often negative emotion—anger. This is a very dangerous combination.
I’ve learned that angry people have many fears. They feel, in some way, vulnerable to others. Their defense is to lash out in anger. This does succeed in keeping people at arm’s length, true, but it destroys nearly every meaningful relationship as well.”
Reflecting on the above, I think of Darth Vader!
As young Anakin Skywalker, he is presented to the wise old Jedi, Yoda, who detects “much fear” simmering away in the young man’s heart and he warns him against this. But it goes unheeded; Anakin succumbs to his fear, venting it through his anger, and the monstrous Darth Vader is born, leaving behind him a wake of pain, hurt, cruelty and the murder of innocents.
As Yoda says, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Although fictional, it is a powerful illustration of how fear fuels anger, which then leads to destructive behaviour – sin.
Are you caught in a cycle of anger that expresses itself in such things as hurtful comments, unforgiveness and revenge?
Then it is time for you to confront your fears.
Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”
Is it losing your spouse, being overlooked for a promotion, being rejected by others, having your carefully hidden flaws exposed or having your point of view challenged?
All of these, and countless others, have the capacity to lead us into angry, sinful, behaviour.
Take the time now, to think about your fears, and where required, seek out a good counselor who can help you process them.
“Be angry, yet do not sin…”