Yesterday the good news we proclaimed was this:
The love of God makes room for anger.
We cannot imitate God unless we learn to be angry well.
Church: may we seek the love that has room for righteous, sacrificial, evil-naming, Kingdom-seeking, truth-telling anger in our midst. Let us learn to be angry and not sin: hold anger in love together.
I talked about three challenges in this good news for us:
- To be present to our anger
- To clarify the purpose of our anger
- To discern the power at work in our anger
I want to give you some practices and questions you can use go deeper in this for yourself this week:
1. Be Present
This week, notice what “makes” you angry. I put “makes” in quotations because that’s how we normally talk (“such and such made me angry”) but in reality nothing truly makes us angry. Anger, rather, is the meaning our minds assign our experiences.
My friend Becky Castle Miller sums it up this way: “Emotions are the way our minds make meaning from our physical sensations. Those meanings are influenced by our past experiences and our culture’s expectations for how emotions may be displayed and identified. Emotions prepare our bodies to take action toward a goal.”
So in order to be present to our anger we must first notice when we experience it. Just notice. Name it. Say to yourself (or out loud): “I feel anger right now.” Notice how it impacts your body, notice where your thoughts go, notice how your mood shifts. Just notice.
2. Clarify Purpose
Be curious about your anger once you notice it: Why am I angry? What external stimulus or internal thought triggered this response?
Often anger is triggered when we don’t get what we want. Some questions to ask: “What do I perceive under attack right now? What is threatened that I want? What do I want that I can’t have?”
Anger is a protective response. When we are angry, our body releases chemicals that “prepare us to act.” We may also at this point feel motivated to “do” something: to get or take or defend or attack. Notice what action you want to take as well.
3. Discern Power
Notice if your anger is moving you toward justice or injustice. Are you “powering up” on someone weaker than you? Are you protecting someone who would otherwise get hurt?
Sometimes anger is a response when those of us who have power and control lose it. Discern the power at work here.
Sometimes anger is a response when we feel like we don’t have agency or choices. Discern the power at work here.
Sometimes anger is a response when powerless or vulnerable people are in danger, exploited, abused. Discern the power at work here.
This week, see if you can be present to your anger, clarify its purpose, and discern the power at work there.
These sorts of practices are vital if we are going to learn to hold our anger in God’s love together.
Grace and Peace,