Speaking the Truth in Love—Body Anger

Our group at church has been going through the small group DVD series by Chip Ingram, Overcoming Emotions that Destroy: Practical Help for Those Angry Feelings That Ruin Relationships. As with other Ingram DVD’s series, his ideas have been well-received because he has a great mix of biblical ethics, pastoral sensitivity and practical advice.

In this series he explored the passage in Ephesians 5:26. “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” He argues that there are four ways to manage anger, three of them detrimental and the last one is good. There are “spewers” who explode in tirades of anger or abusive speech. They destroy relations with strong commanding actions, voices and lives. There are “leakers” who let resentment and anger build up in an area and then release it destructively in other relationship or areas where they may have more power, usually families. Then there are “stuffers” who bury their concerns and resentments, either not wanting to confront others or unable to handle conflict or not wanting to be overcome by the anger they see makes “spewers” and “leakers” hard to live with. They eventually slip into depression or become spewers and leakers with a lot more to spew and leak.

Those three methods miss the true call of God in our anger. Anger can be a legitimate experience where we are prompted by the Spirit to sense something is wrong, out of kilter, or being destructive of the group. Often we should get upset about something but then use our minds and the ideas of others to figure out how to channel that into a solution.

In a three part series, I want to look at anger. In this blog, I look at anger’s communal experience. Next, I examine the wrath and anger in leadership and of leaders. Finally, I look at God’s anger or wrath.

First, I believe anger is a legitimate emotion for humans (and as I will show in a later post, for God). I view anger in humans as a sense of a violated value or expectation. It can be a slight against the conscience as much as it can be a slight against the ego. While the response of yelling or hitting is not a good demonstration of anger, it may be evidence that the person has discovered or experienced a wrong that should be addressed by the group or someone close to that person, or at times, by the state.

Anger is a starting point, but this anger needs to be mapped out into a plan. We have to have a full brain, logical and dispassionate utilization of this passion. That seems to be an oxymoron but gratitude and lattitude has to be mixed with anger to make it more effective.

Second, once we accept that anger can be good, we have to manage it so that it can bring good. We have to follow Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4:26 “Be Angry and Sin Not”  The three sinful attitudes and behaviors that first need to be addressed related to Ingram’s three wrong ways of dealing with Anger. First, we need to run from apathy and laziness or conflict avoidance. This is the sin of stuffers. We need to see avoidance as evil, as laziness and fear. The next sin is the sin of poor deliberation or false accusation. By leaking, individuals show they are falsely accusing a person or one event of wrong when in fact it is another person or incident that is wronging us or the group. In seeking health for the body (a metaphor we return to at the end of this blog), referred pain can be very dangerous as individuals and their health team fail to isolate the real cause of pain and therefor do not bring the solution that is needed. Those who lead are poor at identifying the root cause of an anger. Finally, those who loose control and let tirades (spewers) happen, forget their own injustice and impatience which is more like Satan than God.

So the first sinful dispossition and behaviors to avoid are: “avoidance/laziness” and “displaced attention and response” and “poor self control.”

Third, once we appreciate the health role of anger, and realize it will need something more than avoidance, leaking, and spewing to have its worthwhile effect, we start looking for better strategies.The verse before v 26, might have a solution:

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (v 25)

We each need to accept the fact God has given us unique truth to share to others. Just as he distrubutes gifts of the spirit as he sees fit, so he distributes spiritual insight and sensitive to His character. In fact, one of the signs God is active in the church is that He continues to show us more light and bring in people who foster more responsiveness and effectiveness to human needs. Those around you can become more attuned than you to issues and you can miss out.

I believe we are in communities to be of service to each other. One service can be guided by our anger. It can be used well. We each can see issues that will cause problems and we must use our “nerve-endings” to detect and respond.

Which brings me to the last point: the body concept is all around this passage of Paul’s whole discussion of anger. Verse 4-6 summarizes Paul’s background argument: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

If something is out-of-whack, a part of the body may feel it. If we dismiss it, we do so at our loss. After awhile if concern it neglected, that can grow into anger which might be needed to get the attention of the group to the issue.

I have come to the conclusion that much of what God can teach us about truth comes from interacting with those around who HE HAS ALREADY TAUGHT A TRUTH THAT WE NEED IN OUR LIVES THAT THEY CAN HELP US WITH.

The more we interact, the more effective our sense of what is going on CAN BE. We have a duty to share with other humans the truth they need.

Some examples might bring this more general talk home.

A body example: If my ears hear a falling branch and I don’t turn my eyes to see which way to run, then the truth chain reation may occur. My ears don’t pass on the sound of falling branch and the eyes don’t look into it and then the whole body suffers.

Another “tame” illustration of this concept occurred several years again when I was a passenger riding back from Chicago in a van my friend was driving. We were busy talking and as he was coming up to our exit, I notice he wasn’t moving over to turn. I figured maybe I was wrong about the exit or he had his reasons. A couple of miles afterwards, I mentioned it to him. He couldn’t believe I didn’t bring up the issue. I realized then I had low confidence or didn’t want to disagree but should have said something. It was the avoidance and lazy sin hurting our trip.

A more recent illustration hits closer to home. I study administration and teach leaders. It has been the toughest but most fulfilling job I have ever had. Part of my challenge is I haven’t been a captain of industry, a CEO or much of a “corporate” leader. I just know God put me here (see my other posts on my calling).

So, my goal is to help leaders grow, and some of them are not my students, they are my bosses. That is when it gets delicate. Recently, I saw a blind spot in one of my administrators that is an amazing leader. I know I am not perfect, and I couldn’t do half the things s/he does, but unless s/he changes, their leadership ship will capsize. I have seen it before. I feel the wrong and there is a bit of anger that I need to keep from being squelched by apathy.

However, who am I to judge anotehr. Plus, as we all know, speaking truth to power is dangerous. I don’t want to be taken wrong or even fired. Furthermore, I don’t like “whining” professors who are overly sensitive to issues and too idealistic.

But, I have decided to I see something and that I have to follow the Ephesians 4 pattern. I have been listening to 1 and 2 timonth for dozens of walks to get my courage up.

But just splattering out a truth rarely works…unless you have to shout fire to the neighbor in the burning house next door.

So I am starting on a five step process.

1.      Investigate the truth. Is that I feel something is not right or something needs to be made right I need to see if this is a legitimate feeling. I need to gather facts—sometimes very quickly—to determine if what I am feeling is legitimately related to what is happening. I personally have a paranoia that quick emerges in the stuffing process. I need to back away from my paranoia and ask what the facts and data show.

2.      Identify the core nature of the Truth. Sometimes something that starts as a feeling in one area, after investigation, migrates to be more accurately describe as a different type of pain. For example, I might be upset at being neglected in conversations, but in reality, on closer look I feel disrespected. As I dig deeper to see if this is true, then I have to ask what seems to show this lack of respect. Do I need to just be more confident about my abilities or is their something I am doing that creates disrespect for my being as a person, my knowledge as a human and my skills as a man.

3.      Develop a statement of the problem. Rework that statement until it is closer to the facts and less driven by hate or fear. Take out the brutish statements until it is refined into “I believe…” or “I observe…” statements followed by facts and how that makes your life or the life of others more difficult.

4.      Share it with others, starting with one’s closest friends to get feedback and alter your perception based on theirs. As God leads, share it with the parties most involved.

5.      Receive feedback from them on your perspective and suggestions for remedy.

Speaking truth to power is not fun. It rips me on the inside, but as a neighbor to both students and administrators, I have to do this in all good conscience.

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Prayer: God, thank you for my anger. Help me to use it for your glory and the welfare of those around me who deserve the love you have given to share through me to them.

Next Post: Angry Leadership


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