People don’t make great efforts unless they are motivated. And anger, being a powerful emotion, is by definition a motivator.
But it is a mistake to think that displays of anger are likely to lead to anything productive. While it is true people need to be motivated, they also need to be strategic. Anger can motivate but it doesn’t help you think clearly. So it easily propels you toward disaster.
This is important for politics.
There is a widespread idea that angry people are a threat to tyrannical government. The image of a tyrant being removed by a mob of angry subjects is embedded in our imaginations.
Yet, often, some of our most popular myths try to tell us that the story is not that simple. Anger ends up working for the enemy. In Star Wars (the original trilogy, of course) Luke had to master his anger to prevent himself from becoming the enemy he despised.
In Harry Potter, rejecting anger and hatred was key to Potter differentiating himself from Lord Voldemort.
Whether one agrees with the internal logic of these stories or not, they are presenting a principle that seems similar to what we find in the Bible. When Jesus’ followers tried to fight for him, he told them that such behavior was a path to destruction.
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
Proverbs repeatedly warns against being provoked to anger:
"Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly"Proverbs 14:29
"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention"Proverbs 15:18
"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense"Proverbs 19:11
For reasons to which I am often sympathetic, people are getting mad. Here’s one example. There are many others.
I have no doubt the media is exaggerating the prevalence of such anger. But the fact that they would want to exaggerate anger proves that public anger is not helping our cause. Such allegations are currently being used to justify the DOJ openly intimidating parents of public school children.
This is enraging, but it is a big mistake to let yourself become enraged. If the government gains power by alleging that we are motivated to crimes by anger, imagine what they will do in response to real anger? As Jesus put it when he was being taken to the cross:
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”Luke 23:28-31
In other words: If they will hang me as a rebel despite my innocence what will happen to your children when they really rebel?
As I have argued elsewhere, Proverbs teaches that anger is addictive and irrational. It may be appropriate at times, but those times are never as common as we like to think (especially when we are angry). Thus, the book of James lays down the rule and the reason for it:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of GodJames 1:19-20
The letter of James was written to people who were experiencing greater persecution than we are. One cannot dismiss the instruction as inapplicable. It has been said that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God. I agree. But anger can be a great tyrant. Resist it as well.
Mark Horne has served as a pastor and worked as a writer. He is the author of The Victory According To Mark: An Exposition of the Second Gospel, Why Baptize Babies?,J. R. R. Tolkien, and Solomon Says: Directives for Young Men. He is the Executive Director of Logo Sapiens Communications and the writer for SolomonSays.net.