The importance of anger

Some baristas are sages, masters of coffee and poignant tattoos.

A barista at a cafe I used to frequent had a tattoo with the words “the upside of anger” wildly emblazoned on his forearm. And when I asked him about it, he talked about how anger had been a destructive force in his life but that he had been learning how to channel it in constructive means.

See what I mean? Those were sage words.

Anger is a spark. And sparks are neutral in value. It all depends on what you do with the spark.

Some sparks are used by arsonists to burn down buildings, destroying homes and lives. And anger often is a tool for destruction, enflaming angry words and violent actions that scatter ruin. We’re all too familiar with these angry sparks in us and around us.

Some sparks are used to light campfires on dusky summer evenings, warming friends and drawing out conversations. Some sparks get engines running, setting in motion machines that move people and remake the world. We’re quite familiar with these constructive sparks in us and around us.

Injustice requires anger. When injustice is met with milder emotions, no effective response arises. But when injustice scratches the match head of anger, the potential for revolutionary action catches flame.

The question is: How are we going to use our anger?

There are those whose anger at abortion leads them to bomb clinics, matching what they see as injustice with yet another injustice. There are those whose anger at certain politicians leads to fist fights at rallies. There are those whose anger at what they read on the internet leads to offensive trolling.

There are those whose anger fires their imaginations and leads them to speak and march against racism like Martin Luther King, Jr., or free the slaves of modern human trafficking like Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission. There are so many others that could be mentioned who have rallied to deal with women’s suffrage, child labor, gang violence, war, substance abuse, homelessness, foster care, etc. in creative ways.

In every constructive use of anger, it is turned inward instead of outward. Instead of flaring outward to burn others, it is turned inward to ignite the engine and keep the pistons pumping, turning flame into motion.

So, what makes you angry? And how are you going to turn that anger inward to get you moving to do something about what is wrong in the world so that you don’t explode and injure others?

My suggestion: Start with prayer. Praying can draw the self-righteousness out of our anger  by connecting us with God and his redeeming work in the world. Praying also requires listening to God which can lead to creative and constructive engagement instead of knee-jerk reaction.

Don’t waste your anger. And don’t let it waste you. Use it well.

Advertisements