For me anger and sadness shared the same emotional limelight for years. It has been said that our feelings cannot be separated into neat, tidy bundles like our dark and light clothes on washday. Rather they often tumble together, leaving us feeling both crazy and mixed up.
For many years that’s how I felt about anger. I was angry with my aunt because she didn’t protect me from abuse, yet at the same time I felt pity for her because she was often the victim of rage and beatings as she was verbally and physically abused by my uncle too. And again years later I was saddened when I was getting counseling and receiving God’s healing and finding freedom, and she was still carrying around all her wounds and pain.
So often with adult children of dysfunctional families anger is the only emotion they feel, while for others it is the one “dangerous” emotion they never allow themselves to feel.
So when is anger appropriate?
Did you know that anger is not a sin? More importantly, do you believe it?
Sandra Wilson in her book, Released from Shame, says that hundreds of times in Scripture God is described as experiencing and expressing anger. God responds with anger at injustice and victimization, at disobedience to Him and idolatry, among other sinful attitudes and acts. And so when we witness the effects of injustice, disobedience to God and/or idolatry, anger is an appropriate response.
If you helplessly witnessed a child being beaten or raped, would you feel angry? Of course you would because it is such a blatant act of injustice and victimization.
What about if you saw a father consistently abuse his children verbally and emotionally in such a way that the child became very discouraged and wounded. I suspect this would anger you too.
Now let’s take this a step closer to home. I believe that anger is appropriate, not only when we witness the effects of injustice and abuse but also when we “experience” those effects ourselves.
Why is it not appropriate for you to feel anger towards the perpetrator who physically, sexually or verbally abused you as a child?
In effect you had to stand by and watch a child being victimized, powerless to stop it…..and that child was you.
Does it make the acts perpetrated against you any less unjust because they happened to you instead of another child?
Let’s take a “time out” right now and I invite you consider re-examining the scene of your abuse from God’s perspective. God is angry about the abuse you endured as a child.
God knows it’s not your fault no matter what your abuser may have told you.
Maybe you’ve never looked at your abuse this way, perhaps you need to find a trusted friend or counselor who can provide support and comfort as you acknowledge and experience the anger, sadness or other feelings that might persist
With this friend or counselor invite the Lord into the scenes and ask Him to speak to you, to show you where He was in this scene and how He felt. Give yourself permission to talk, cry, shout, or write them out if it may help more…. remembering that you will not feel these intense emotions forever. Invite the Holy Spirit to heal the wounds, the broken pieces of your heart and injustices that you experienced as a child. I believe it is important to go back into the depths of those painful places, inviting Jesus into those painful places and offer to Him your fragmented heart where the battle took place, and He can and will begin to heal your broken heart and set you free.
Jesus is not limited by space or time and much freedom comes when we are able to invite Him into those wounded areas of our hearts knowing that He was right there with us and is waiting to heal and bring wholeness to our fragmented hearts.
So back to the question of when is anger appropriate? It is good to remember that God’s anger is always justified and appropriate, and He never responds to it with sin. But if we are honest we can’t always say the same for our anger. The difficult thing for us is to handle our anger appropriately.
As author Sandra Wilson points out that although God does not equate our anger with sin, He does issue a strong warning because anger is such a powerful emotion. (Ephesians 4:26- In your anger do not sin)
Anger ceases being appropriate and becomes sinful when it becomes a habitual attitude rather than the appropriate emotional response to injustice and the other situations mentioned earlier.