Anger is a tricky emotion. On the one hand, it is an emotion we have all experienced – even Jesus Himself experienced anger. On the other hand, St. Paul lists anger as one of the sins of the flesh that prevent us from entering the Kingdom of God. So is it possible to be angry and be a good Christian? And if so, how?
Bert Ghezzi is a Catholic author and speaker who literally wrote the book on the issue. His book, The Angry Christian: A Bible-based Strategy to Care for and Discipline a Valuable Emotion explains how any angry person can change by seeing anger as an opportunity for spiritual growth.
Ghezzi recently stopped by Morning Air® to discuss anger, and how we can use our anger to actually grow in holiness, hope, and building up the Kingdom of God.
On how Christians can use their anger for good…
I’ve had to deal with anger all my life, especially short irritability. And I began to study and read Scripture and I thought that the scriptural approach to anger is very helpful. Scripture says be angry, but don’t sin.
So find a way to express your anger carefully, in a way that’s good. I learned that you can express anger righteously if you express it for a good purpose, if you use it to achieve something good or to oppose something bad, and if you keep it under control. Keeping it under control is the main factor.
Bad anger is letting anger control you, or using anger to oppose something good. Those are guidelines that I learned to apply, and I had to learn to do it over time. But gradually it became something I could do instinctively rather than having to decide how I’m going to respond.
Anger should become a servant for us, if we learn to respond to it gracefully.
On righteous anger versus unrighteous anger…
On a big scale, there are all kinds of issues in our world. And people are very angry, appropriately, over things like abortion, sexual harassment of women, the sex scandal in the Catholic Church. And I think if we are angry about that we should find some way to channel our anger into activity. So, for example, if you’re angry about the prevalence of abortion, we should channel our anger into working for pro-life causes.
If I am angry over things that make me irritable, I should try to discipline my anger and try to express it appropriately. So for example, if I get up in the morning and I’m nasty, I should begin to figure out that I need to change what I’m doing.
I recommend to people, when they get up in the morning they should commit themselves to the love commands. I love you Lord with my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole soul. I love my neighbors as myself. I love others as you love me. If you commit yourself to love, that’s one of the contexts for disciplining your anger properly.
His advice for living in a culture that embraces anger…
My advice is to apply the biblical principles. Be angry, but keep it under control and channel the anger into good behaviors. If I lower the anger in my own life, I’m contributing to lowering it in the general culture. If everybody who reads the book begins to practice good, Christian approach to anger, we as a whole contribute to lowering the level of anger in our society.
And I think we can start small. Small is a spiritual principle, and if we start small God will make it bigger.
Why do people love to focus on Jesus overturning tables?
Jesus used anger when He needed to get through a difficult situation. And, for me, the better example than the turning over the tables in the Temple is in Mark chapter 3. Jesus wants to heal the man with the withered hand and the Pharisees and Sadducees are looking for a way to trip Him up. Even at the very beginning of His ministry they wanted to kill Him, they wanted to catch Him doing something on the Sabbath.
So on the Sabbath day, the man with the withered hand comes forward, and Jesus says, ‘Is it not good to heal on the Sabbath rather than do bad?’ He looked around at them with anger, it says, and He called the man to extend his hand and he was healed.
So Jesus used anger in that situation to do something very, very good. And that’s a model for us. We should use anger when we’re trying to achieve something good. Jesus did not have to say anything, he just looked at them with anger and healed the man. He got through it and they got the message.
Does anger grow out of fear, or does fear grow out of anger?
I think they are a mutual admiration society. They work together. I think anger does come out of fear, but then when you’re angry and you see how it controls you, it can intimidate you as well.
If you’re angry, how do you see hope?
If you’re angry, you can channel your anger into good behavior. Scripture does not deal with the flare up of anger. There is a flare up and there is a reaction. Scripture deals with the reaction, and advises us to channel our anger into good behavior.
So if I’m angry over something, I can channel that anger into endurance and patience, or I can channel it into mercy and forgiveness. And if I channel my anger into a good behavior, one of the fruits of the Spirit, then I’m generating something that can increase my hope.
Listen to the full conversation with Bert Ghezzi below:
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