by Andrea Elizabeth
It seems that anger is the response to either being hurt or being afraid of being hurt. Pain is the root of it while fear is more the defense mechanism. Pain is the deepest part. Self pity can be the reflective part of pain when removed from the situation. If we’re talking primal man, then fear and anger are basically flight and fight, and self pity is the licking of the wounds afterward.
If a person is told it is sinful to be angry, which is the active part of the dynamic above, depression the passive) and that they must stop it, it seems to me that in order to do so, we should understand what is going on. Psychologists tell you to discover why you are angry, which will lead to exploring your fear and your wounds. This is not the approach I want to take at this stage. I don’t think it helpful as it adds to self pity, even though there is talk of forgiveness in there. Maybe more on forgiveness later. But if there is a wild beast out to get you, I don’t know how helpful forgiving him is. There’s the fairy tales of the mouse pulling out the lion’s thorn, but are we really mice? I spoke of how dangerous victims can be earlier.
Another approach is to identify when we are angry and say the Jesus Prayer instead. This is basically deflection, and is good, but I want to see if it is more complex than that. Firstly, I think that anger is rooted in the past. We are reliving past traumas when we get that fighting response. We don’t want to be hurt again and we don’t want hurtful conditions allowed back in our lives. Many times this is an over reaction. The threat may or may not be there, but the pouncing instinct is too based in fear of personal injury. It turns everyone else into ferocious beasts. There are some out there, but they are a minority. And even then, I think we are too afraid of being hurt. We think that if hurtful things happen, everything will be ruined. We already think things are ruined. This may be what we need to bring to the Jesus Prayer. Not so much, “I’m angry and bad, so please don’t be mad at me, and make me stop being angry so that you wont be mad at me anymore, because then things are ruined.” Instead maybe it should be, “things seem ruined, please fix them.” This allows faith in, instead of fear. We can trust that God will fix things without having to go into this deep exploration of the past.
Now what to do about the ferocious beast, if there is a real, present one. I think we need shelter from them. While there is a threat, I don’t think that forgiveness is the first priority, but protection of you and yours. If one is hiding and fearful, then they will perpetuate the above response when smaller threats ensue: the threats we have to deal with from the good guys who are committed to good and who love you, but don’t have as their first priority doing what makes you happy, at least not in the way that actually makes you happy. They end up getting labeled ferocious beasts when they are not. One can become a ferocious beast to them, unfortunately, because it takes a beast to fight off a beast.
So, if we legitimately need protection from a bad guy, and I believe there are legitimately bad guys, then there needs to be a way to not feel vulnerable to them. Removing yourself from their grasp can take beastly measures, and there are legitimate wounds. And grieving is legitimate, and where that so easily crosses over into self pity is hard to discern. But God provides deliverance. And maybe it came because we prayed. And when we are afraid, he can deliver us from that too. So the Jesus Prayer is the answer, but I think the focus should be for deliverance from fear and pain and not on guilt, except for how our anger hurt others. ‘Be angry and sin not’, is a tall order. Instead we should most of the time cultivate a truly thankful spirit for God’s deliverance from legitimate threats and for his loving and gracious blessings. Look for them instead of a tiger behind every bush.