Have you ever been so angry at someone, or some group, you just simply couldn’t move beyond your anger? It happens to many of us, for a variety of reasons. Our anger burns hot within us, we make it a welcome companion in our daily lives. We even nurture and feed it in order to keep it fresh and active.
Is this how we should treat anger in our lives? There are a great many problems ahead for those who cannot seem to let go of their anger. There are some who keep it close to them, it festers in them and can cause a whole host of issues. Unresolved anger has the potential to affect our health in a great number of ways. Anger can be associated with risks to the health of our heart. Anger raises the risk of having a stroke. Anger can weaken our immune system. Anger can create, or heighten the levels of anxiety one experiences. Anger is linked to depression. A study from Harvard scientists has revealed anger festering in especially men, can significantly reduce their lung capacity, which in turn can create a multitude of respiratory problems. Respiratory issues and blood pressure issues can even affect our hearing and eyesight. Anger has been shown to shorten the life span of those who let anger reside in them. There are a number of studies which relate to how anger and stress create environments which can encourage the growth of cancer cells. Underlying health issues with our lungs, heart, kidneys, even eyes, can worsen if we allow anger to remain in us.
Here’s the thing about nurturing feelings of anger, resentment and even desired retribution; it only serves to hurt the one with those feelings. We can imagine so clearly the vanquishing of those we feel wronged by, or angry toward. In our mind, we think how good we will feel if someone, or some entity can “get what’s coming to them.” And of course, we’re the one’s who decide what that “coming to them” should entail. We spend inordinate amounts of time dreaming up and fantasizing about, the day our vengeance can come to fruition. Those we’re angry toward, we hold hard feelings about, we wish for their doom and destruction; they go on with their lives without giving us or our nurtured anger a second thought. They haven’t been harmed in the least, we on the other hand, have done untold damage to our health, our spiritual selves, and our psyche.
In Proverbs 15:18 we’re told, “A hot-tempered persons stirs up strife, but the one who is slow to anger quiets contention.” In Proverbs 22:24 we read, “Make no friendship with a person given to anger, nor go with a wrathful person.” And again in Proverbs 29:22, we hear “A person of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” The writer of Ecclesiastes 7:9 tells us, “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”
What we hear in these scriptures is a proscription against letting anger take root in us and remain. Its not that we will not get angry, that’s a given. Its how we let that anger play out in our lives. Those who nurture their anger and hold on to it with a tight grip, are only hurting themselves. We see the result all the time in those around us. Persons filled with anger appear caustic and contrary with others. They tend to be hard to get along with and crotchety. Some even revel in their contrariness. What usually happens is people will avoid them and keep them at arms length, further alienating them and causing even more issues of anger and resentment.
What are we to do with the anger that will surely come our way? We should address the root cause of our anger. We should make peace with that anger and let it go. This is where forgiveness comes in. I’ve heard a number of persons utter words like, “I’ll never forgive them.” Withholding forgiveness only serves to punish ourselves, not the one we are angry with. Again, the person we are angry with has gone forward and most likely isn’t giving us a second thought. Forgiveness isn’t for them anyway, its really for us. This is why Jesus taught forgiveness, its what releases us to have a full and abundant life. We are not bound up in our anger, we are free to love and be loved when we release our anger.
In Ephesians 4:31 we hear “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” And in Colossians 3:8 we read, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” Then finally in chapter 3:15 of the same letter we are told, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Anger and being hurt come with the territory of human feelings and emotions. What we do with those things has more to say about our spiritual maturity and the closeness with which we align ourselves in following Jesus. Jesus made a great many people angry, and some of them wreaked their vengeance on him. In the end, any anger he may have felt toward them he released in forgiving them.
May God resolve in us our feelings of anger, the hurts we’ve endured, and may God give us the spiritual maturity to forgive and let peace come to us.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,