“Anger is a most helpful diagnostic tool. When anger erupts in us it is a signal that something is wrong. Anger is our sixth sense for sniffing out what is wrong in the neighborhood. What anger fails to do, though, is to tell us whether the wrong is outside or inside us.” Eugene Peterson Bill Britton
Until reading Eugene Peterson I am not sure I have ever considered the two distinct faces of anger. One face is that of what is often referred to as “righteous anger,” meaning that something is amiss in society, family, and family dysfunction. The other, and much uglier face, is the consequence of my our personal unfulfilled desires. I want to be appreciated; I want to be admired; I want my “stuff;” I want things that validate me and make me happy.
Two different faces, one is worthy, and the other is self-serving. Let’s explore the distinctions…
Self-serving anger most often stems from fear of not receiving exactly what we have expected to receive, and not receiving that which we inappropriately feel we deserve. I am angry when things don’t go “my way.” For whom else matters except me, in this despicable state of mind. And to be honest, I believe that is the root of so much of the anger that dominates American society.
But Eugene Peterson has suggested that there is indeed another face to anger, the face of outrage at demonstrations of evil toward other people. I find that I become angry or impatient or unaccepting of cruelty and abuse and lack of respect for other people. That is not to mention the anger I feel over the likes Vladimir Putin and his manipulations of power at the expense of the Ukrainians and the people in Russia in general.
There are for sure many times this form of evil should arose a sense of anger within each of us. Lack of care and concern for people and the planet is disturbing and worthy of our indignant anger and require us to speak up with a collegial voice of outrage.
Anger at Personal Offence
Once again… there is an even more vexing problem and that is the selfish anger that lies deep within each of us. It happens at times when I am pissed off because someone offended me, spoke of me derogatorily, failed to live up to a promise, or any number of issues that has to do with my selfish and insecure ego.
I fear this is the anger that is grounded in selfish and self-centered insecurity. How may time each day do you find yourself offended by the actions of another? Dozens or more, I am sure. And this is the anger that we can control by managing our own influence over our flawed psychology. We hunger for acceptance and love and respect. And we hunger for it deeply.
What Will You Do with Your Anger?
And so. You will be angry… today! What will you do with your anger? If it is “righteous anger” then you can pray, join advocacy groups, or be charitable. If it is the anger from the insecure self, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate, reconsider, be humble, and forgive.
You can love!
The Two Sources of Anger: Self or Evil
Take Time to Understand Which Angers You
Photo courtesy of Ridofranz at istockphoto
One thought on “Two Faces of Anger”
Charlie, as always, thank you for writing your thoughts and causing me to explore my own.
I’m currently in Colombia for a month and yesterday while on a tour with my driver, I had remarked how happy people seemed, even (especially?) the people I encountered in even the poorest barrios. And I contrast that with the internalized anger which so many Americans seem to possess (myself included), despite the lives we live. I won’t even begin to get into what’s going on in Ukraine.