Anger and Love – Breaking down and building up

A quick thought on anger:
 
Anger is volatile. Anger is powerful. Anger is disturbing. But anger is not inherently evil.
 
I’ve heard it said that anger is “love in motion toward a threat against that which it loves” (attribution: Tim Keller, of Redeemer Presbyterian Church). Think of mama bear and baby bear. When baby bear is threatened, mama bear gets angry.
 
Anger is a useful diagnostic. When you become angry, you can ask yourself what it is that you love. You can then ask yourself if the thing you love is truly under threat. You can further ask yourself whether you are loving that thing more than you ought.
 
For example, it’s natural to get upset if someone insults you. But if you fall into a violent rage when a stranger throws you an unkind comment, then it shows that you deeply love your image. Is your pride worthy of that much love?
 
You can talk all you want about what you love, but your anger says more about your love than words ever will.
 
It’s useful to know that anger and love are connected, because it gives you something to do with your anger. Anger desires to be directed. If anger has nothing to do, it will smolder into resentment and cynicism. Sometimes it’s appropriate to use anger to tear down, break apart, unchain. But sometimes, you can’t do much with anger; the threat is too diffuse, too distant, too intangible. So instead of tearing down the threat, you can channel that emotion into building up what is under threat.
 
If you can’t use anger to fight back the bully, you can use love to build up the victim.
 
I’m not saying people should never become angry. That’s foolishness. I firmly believe that you can’t tell people what to feel. That’s not how feelings work. And anger is just as much a part of life as joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and all other emotions. But anger gets easily corrupted. Anger can turn from love protecting against a threat into hatred smashing down a victim.
 
For each of us, there will be a season to break down, and a season to build up. I hope that all of us would know the season that is set for us.

Charlottesville

I’ve been off Facebook and news for the past two weeks. I wanted to take a step away from everything going on. I can share another time about the experience of unplugging. In short, it was a very necessary break.
 
I returned this morning to hear the news about the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, the violent clash with counter-protestors, the car attack that killed one woman and left multiple people injured, and the helicopter crash that killed two state troopers that were monitoring the demonstrations.
 
It’s a lot to take in after unplugging from the news.
 
So much has been said about what happened in Charlottesville, about the rise of the alt-right and white nationalism, about the response or lack thereof from our civic, religious, and community leaders. So much more needs to be said.
 
For now, let me say that I’m saddened, but not surprised.
 
I’m saddened at the death of Heather Heyer and the injuries of so many others in the car attack. I’m not surprised, because in the senseless violence of bigotry, innocent people become targets.
 
I’m saddened at the racism and hatred displayed by the white supremacists in Charlottesville. I’m not surprised, because such attitudes are deeply embedded in our country, and we are very far from addressing them.
 
I’m saddened because this is not the people that we want to be. I’m not surprised, because this is the people that we are.
 
I’m saddened, but not surprised. But I’m also refusing to lose hope and drift into the numb cocoon of apathy.
 
I can’t do much to change the actions and beliefs of others. So I pray that I would have the strength and vision to do what I can, to stand with those who mourn, to call forth deep abiding hope, and to work for the restoration of the image of God in every person.