The Forbidden Emotion: Anger?
Sometime ago, a person for whom I care deeply, and who shall remain nameless to protect the identity, was struggling with enormous complicated grief. This one had experienced grief after grief, as this person’s loved one almost died several times, and each time, because of some very good choices made by this individual, the love of their life came back and lived a while longer. This was quite an emotional roller coaster. When the beloved actually did die, the emotions were real and raw. This included stage two of the grief process, which involves ANGER.
Giving Advice Especially Bad Advice?
This wounded soul revealed their anger to a fellow Christian who knows far less than he/she thinks they know. It was made very clear, by this bad advice giver, that the person who had experienced such a horrific loss would wind up in hell, and they would not see their loved one, if they didn’t get their attitude right. So, if I understand this correctly, this advice giving “friend” actually tried to help by getting “preachy” though they were ignorant of how God heals us through our grief. In a nutshell, they apparently believe that expressing authentic grief produced anger, if it is continued to be expressed, would land a grief stricken soul in hell. If you have a friend like this run away from them as fast as you can! Or at least consider tuning them out. If you wear hearing aides, turn them off. Because they are wrong! They are dead wrong!
Jesus Life Challenges Lies About The Emotion of Anger
One of the things I have learned over the years is that emotions are neither bad nor good. What can make an emotion “bad” or “good” is determined by what you do with those emotions. I am still learning, and I find it healing to believe, emotions are painful or not painful. Jesus, as we said in an earlier blog, is a “Man of sorrows acquainted with deepest grief.” And while on earth, he experienced a whole plethora of emotions, Yes, and he actually got angry; yet, people, like the bad advice giver I wrote about earlier, seem to actually believe the lie that “Christians shouldn’t get angry.” Or they believe even worse that, “If you get angry, you are not a very good Christian at all.” The most extreme would be, “If a Christian get’s angry, they are going to hell.” If all this were true, Jesus should never have gotten angry, which he did. He wouldn’t have been a “good” Christian because he got angry, and in the extreme, this philosophy would condemn the very Son of God to hell. Just check out Matthew 21:12, and you see what I am talking about: In the Temple, Jesus fulfilled Prophecy – and acted in healthy grief – as he faced the Cross. With zeal he grieved bad behavior. He actually plaited a whip. He kicked over tables, and He ran them out of the temple.
I Get Angry
I get angry. I served on Air Force Family Maltreatment Case Management Team as a Chaplain. I also served on the Air Force Child protection team. During my decades in the Air Force, both as enlisted and officer, I saw some extremely worst case abuse against children, wives and other relatives. I remember a little girl, whose hands were bandaged because each hand was raw and one big blister. How did she get burned? Her parents wanted to teach her to not “play with matches.” So, they held both her hands to the eyes of a red hot stove. This is enough to make a person get REAL angry. Just thinking about it makes me angry.
I saw an early abortion. As I shipped out “surgical specimens” from my duty section, in late 1973, as young sergeant in the Air Force, I was shocked, petrified and REALLY angered to see a “specimen” floating in a large bottle. A baby, the size of my twenty-three year old fist, was floating in liquid. It’s head was torn from its torso and crushed. It’s arms and legs were also torn from the torso. The surgeon called this “Uterine Cuttings.” Here is another example: When a loved one has died, yes, I “know they have gone to a better place.” But I eventually get angry about the death. Don’t be surprised, that this happens to you as well. And doing so does NOT make you sinful.
Anger’s Place In The Bible
“Be angry but sin not. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.
Now, I know that there are times that Anger is inappropriate and downright wrong, but did you catch what the verse above is telling you and me? It gives you and me permission to be angry. It also tells us, that even though it’s okay to be angry we are to “sin not.” So, being angry isn’t sinful. This is really clear. Now, if it becomes wrathful and unending, then it can be a problem. It could turn into sin. I have seen it do so in the raped body of a young woman, the blackened eyes of an abused spouse and the battered or burned body of a child. However, this is not a blog about anger management. Suffice it to say, healthy anger during grief, is … well … healthy and healing.
Anger and Grieving A Loss
How does your healthy anger manifest itself in grief? Well, if you don’t allow it, and you bottle it up, you can have a somatic response. That is, your body will get sick. Anger, or any emotion not properly “vented” or expressed, can impact your heart, your blood pressure and or you digestive tract. It can impact your ability to think clearly in a negative way. If you believe the lie of the bad advice giver above you can be filled with guilt and shame as you believe expressing your emotions some how makes you sinful, which it does not.
If you do allow yourself to be angry, don’t be surprised that one individual at which you are angry is yourself. Then too, you may displace your anger on your friends. This is a time, when eventually, you make things right with them. A grief counselor is helpful hear. Why? This type Counselor will simply let you verbalize of vent you grief , including anger, and not take it personally. Some grieving souls actually get mad at the one who died. I didn’t say that emotions are rational. They simply are what they are. More than will admit it get angry at God for letting the loss happen. My wife has a great thought about this. As she said to our grieving daughter once, “God has big shoulders. He can take it.” He knows all about this stuff called grief, and you and I are told to, cast all our cares on God because God cares about us. (1 Peter 5:7)
So, what are we to be? What are we to do with this “forbidden” emotion anger. I think you would be wise to grieve it out. Don’t let the emotions pile up inside. Don’t drug them. Find an outlet to express or vent your grief. Journal or write about what is going on. Find a grief counselor who will listen without judging. If you have a friend who will do this, and if they don’t try to fix you by giving advice, but if they will lovingly listen, unload your burden with them. Find a grief support group. I think these are better than talking with an individual counselor. They are especially good if the group you visit has enough people with similar losses as your own. Finally, don’t isolate yourself from the outside world. Solitude and quietness are helpful as you process your struggles, but isolation will be detrimental to your health. Live in a mode of “good grief.” Grieve. Process your anger. And don’t sin. You can do all three, and it’s okay with God.
God Bless You.