As we walked, I noticed the lines on my husband’s forehead that I had not seen before. I wondered what could be stressing him enough to imprint on his face. I started thinking about our lives over the last few months before the walk, and I was reminded of the anger that I had been carrying for months. I continually found fault with just about everything he said or did, even whether the toilet tissue roll was on correctly or how we put the top sheet on the bed. Nothing he did seemed right, and we were both unhappy.
That day I had agreed to a walk, to try to find some common ground. As we walked, I felt in my spirit that God was saying to me, “It’s not him you are angry with. You are angry at yourself for the decisions you have made in the past, and you are taking it out on him.” I stopped in my tracks, and I just started to cry. I wanted him to comfort me, but, as I saw him hesitate, I realized that he was paralyzed, unable to decide whether to hold me or keep his distance, mainly because he did not want me to yell at him or put him down.
So, I said to him, “I am not mad at you. I am mad at myself for some bad decisions I made in the past, and I have made you the scapegoat. I am so sorry, but you were the most available target for my anger.” As I watched, he relaxed, and the lines in his forehead started to smooth out, and the rest of the walk was sweet, as once again he held my hand. I learned that day the danger of misplaced anger.
Anger can be healthy, when it motivates us to stand up for what is right and to seek to correct social injustices. But, when our anger controls us, it can lead to sin. Ephesians 4: 26-27 state, “And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Issues that are not addressed in our lives can begin to manifest as anger, and when we fail to acknowledge the rightful focus of our anger, innocent people can get caught in the crossfire and suffer irreparable harm.
Children suffer when parents who are frustrated and angry with their bosses come home and fight with spouses or scream at their children. I believe that much of the violence and the tremendous sorrow and pain of violence in homes, in the streets of America, and around the world derive from deeply entrenched anger that people fail to acknowledge and address in their lives. They may not even know whom they are mad at, or they may be angry with individuals or nameless bureaucrats that they cannot challenge. So, they take out their frustrations on innocent individuals, with family, friends, and neighbors bearing the brunt of their misplaced anger.
We all get angry at one time or another, and often with good cause. But sometimes, we direct our anger at the most vulnerable persons around us, especially when we feel that the persons or situations that fuel our anger are too powerful for us to confront. Recall that King David in 1 Samuel 25 became angry when Nabal refused to share with David and his followers, after they had kept Nabal’s sheep safe. David, separated from family and wives, was frustrated and angry by King Saul’s attempts to kill him. Unwilling to kill King Saul because he thought of him as God’s anointed, David takes his anger out on Nabal, threatening to kill all the men of Nabal’s household. Thankfully, Abigail was able to calm him down so that he did not sin.
The danger of misplaced anger lies in the rashness that accompanies anger which does not allow us sufficient time to think before we speak or act. Uncontrolled anger or misplaced anger results in unnecessary destruction and devastation for both the person who is angry and for innocent bystanders.
I’ve come to understand that if we are to heal the land and find common ground, we must acknowledge the anger of the many Americans whose lives have been impacted by the loss of good jobs and their inability to share in the American Dream, for whatever reasons. Then, we must find alternative ways for people to deal with their anger so that we do not destroy ourselves or others. We must realize that human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires of us (James 1:20). Let us bring our anger to God, asking Him to help us reflect on it and understand the real source of our anger.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to understand what or whom is making us so angry that we are unable to control our emotions or our mouths. Teach us to control our anger, so that we do not end up hurting others or ourselves. You teach us to get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, and to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as you have forgiven us through Jesus Christ. Give us the courage to apologize to those we have hurt with our misplaced anger, and forgive us for the hurt we sometimes cause others, for often we truly know not what we do. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.