If only you, God, would slay the wicked! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. – Psalm 139:19-23, excerpts
The psalms are filled with many emotions: praise, lament, anguish, and yes, anger. Anger is an emotion we all have and we never do well to ignore. And yet, sometimes we may feel that it isn’t “right” to get angry, and we need to get past it to “better” or “more constructive” emotions.
Last night viewing some classic “Star Trek” (one of our quarantine activities) reminded me of how important anger is in making a whole Self. In “The Evil Within” a transporter malfunction actually creates a duplicate Captain Kirk that is actually the part of him that gets angry and aggressive. The “real” Kirk is the compassionate and wise Self, and what is so intriguing about that episode is that he isn’t well without his aggressive side. He’s incomplete, unable to think clearly, and unable to lead effectively. It is the balance between both Selves that makes James Tiberius Kirk the best Starfleet Captain there is (until Jean Luc Picard, of course).
The episode invites us to consider how we maintain this balance of our compassion and our anger. When we are able to maintain the balance, we are able to be productive and effective. When we aren’t able to keep our anger in balance, we see what happened in our nation’s capital. Anger is natural and human, and in proper proportion can be an instrument that moves people to constructive action. However, while that action may stem from anger it can’t be made in anger, lest we run the risk of the anger blinding us to constructive resolution. It is the profound difference between “reacting” (acting in anger) and “responding” (acting from anger but not in it).
We know that, on at least one occasion, Jesus got angry enough in the Temple to overthrow the tables of the money changers and screamed insults at the Scribes and Pharisees. We certainly know God gets angry at times in our sacred story. Anger is part of who and what we are, and there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that. It’s all about the balance and how we use our anger as a tool for moving forward, for growth, and for positive change.
When God searches your heart, don’t worry so much if anger is found there now and again. Be more concerned how, alongside your anger, you still love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving God, help us understand our anger and balance it with our better angels so we don’t become victims of our own emotions.