If you would like to read along as you listen, please refer to the words below.
(Honestly, its my notes, so there may be some errors in typing or whatnot. I hope you find it helpful.)
We’re going to start with a distinction between anger and wrath.
Anger is morally neutral. It isn’t good or bad. Its an emotional reaction that occurs when our expectations are not met.
Anger becomes a sin when we obsess over it, when we direct it at a person who does not deserve it, when we hold it, when we crave punishment or violence for the person who we perceive as the problem. Ultimately, wrath or sinful anger is a rejection of love. A rejection of mercy.
We don’t generally use the word “wrath” in this way, so I’m going to stick with the phrase “sinful anger”.
So, how do I tell the difference between anger and sinful anger?
The easiest way is in retrospect, which often isn’t helpful right away. Sinful anger can be such a strong force that you and I have to engage a process to beat it, not a moment. Do not get discouraged or give up in fighting sinful anger; engage the process knowing that at first, you’ll see it after the anger but you’ll get closer each time to the explosion that caused the problem and, eventually, you’ll be able to possibly see anger coming before you blow up.
With that in mind, the process for letting God heal our anger looks like this:
First, when we realize we were angry, are angry or are about to get angry, we need to ask ourselves two questions:
1. What was my expectation that was not met?
2. Was this expectation just and/or spoken?
This process does a couple things: it allows us to see the root of our anger and honestly, sometimes that is enough to tame the beast of anger. There are times I have moved from anger to laughter as I realized that my expectation was silly.
The virtue that God gives us to combat sinful anger is mercy. Why mercy?
Because sometimes, we’ll realize that our anger was totally unjust. We had a ridiculous expectation. We had a realistic expectation, but we didn’t speak it, whatever it may be, the key is this: sometimes, we will realize our expectation was unjust and we’ll feel shame and those are the moments when we need to remember to have mercy on ourselves. To put it bluntly, it seems to me that we shouldn’t be surprised that we sin, we should be surprised that sometimes we don’t. Ask God’s forgiveness for your sinful anger, ask forgiveness of anyone whom you offended or hurt in that sinful anger, receive mercy and move on.
Sometimes our anger is just. Sometimes, we’ll realize that we had a just expectation, that we spoke it and somehow in the process we got run over. That’s when we need mercy for others. That’s when we need to remember how often people forgive us, how often people put up with us. That’s when we remember the crushing weight of the innumerable obligations we all feel and we simply pray for the person instead of raging. We give them the gift that God gives us: mercy.
And God’s mercy is an important thing to remember. Jesus tells us that the measure with which we measure others will be measured back to us…that should absolutely terrify and challenge us to be as gentle, as merciful and as patient as we can be. If we can’t be merciful out of love for God, then we can be merciful out of naked self interest.
Lord Jesus, in your name, I renounce sinful anger.
Lord Jesus, in your name, I embrace mercy.
May God bless our efforts.