Many of us have been taught that it is wrong to be angry. This thinking weighs heavily in both the sacred and secular domains. Is that thinking right or wrong?
Ruby Bayan saw this when she scoured publications seeking statements about anger made by some well-known and anonymous sources. She cites several in her article, “What They Say About Anger. ”
“Anger is one letter short of danger, ” an unknown spokesperson said. Similarly, Thomas Fuller taught that “anger is one of the sinews of the soul; he that wants it hath a maimed mind. ” A Malabar Proverb claimed, “Anger is as a stone cast into a wasp's nest. ” Samurai Maxim warned, “the angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life. ” Thomas Carlyle charged, “The instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves. ” And Louis L’Armour challenged that “anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers for each rage leaves him less than he had been before—it takes something from him. ”
While we nod our heads in agreement with much that is taught about the waywardness of anger and the destruction it may bring individuals and organizations, we cannot escape what Jesus and the apostle Paul taught in the New Testament. Matthew, in chapter five, verse twenty-two of the book that bears his name, reported that Jesus said it is right to be angry if we have a just cause.
Then Paul, in chapter four, verse twenty-six of his letter to the church in Ephesus, taught they could be angry without committing sin. In other words, Paul, like Jesus, suggested there must be a legitimate reason for anger. Likely, he had dealing with the false teachers who brought devious doctrines into the church in mind. Whatever, the apostle urged the church members in Ephesus to deal with problems carefully and not go to bed angry.
While the false teacher issue was probably foremost in Paul’s mind, settling conflicts before the sun went down sounds like a lesson in family matters—a subject he addressed forcefully in Ephesians, chapter five. There the apostle spoke about the notion of submissiveness—a subject disliked and distorted by many wives and husbands. While Paul taught in Ephesians chapter five, verse twenty-two-a text highly touted by husbands who have a zeal to control and manipulate-that wives are to submit themselves to their husbands, many men miss the lesson in the preceding verse. The truth is—according to Ephesians, chapter five, verse twenty-one, and the most overlooked text in the chapter-husbands and wives should submit themselves to each other.
Clearly, disputes between husbands and wives didn’t originate in modern times. They were part of ancient family life too. Paul taught that problems might arise in households in New Testament times that could make mates angry, but forgiveness should be enacted before the sun went down.
When is it right to be angry? We are right, when we have a legitimate cause. When our thinking squares with what Jesus and Paul taught we then commit ourselves to turn the cause for anger into correcting the problem that created the cause—and do so before going to bed!
Dr A H Barbee is a minister and educator who has served as pastor for growing churches, consultant with businesses and Fortune 500 corporations, and professor with colleges and universities in interdisciplinary studies in the humanities, organizational behavior and management. He holds the PhD in Human Resource Development.