This past week, we talked about the role that anger plays in our lives. Anger is a real part of ourselves, and dealing with it in our relationships can be challenging. We seem to fall in one camp or another, either tending to swallow our anger too far, or let it fly too quickly.
When we swallow our anger, we deny that it is a real experience for us. We often worry that we will upset the other person by telling them how we feel. Sometimes, we may even feel that we don’t deserve to be angry – that it might somehow be “un-Christian” to experience it or to share with someone that we are angry with them. In this camp, we deny our right to our feelings, “rejecting ourselves,” as Buber puts it. And we show that we do not trust the other person enough to share what’s really going on inside of us. Instead, we cause a false relationship, in which we bring only part of ourselves to be seen by the other. The relationship and our own spirit suffers.
When we fall into letting our anger fly, we tend toward Bubers’ “rejecting the other person.” We lose the ability to imagine the other’s side, to honor that their side has merit to them (if not to us), or even that they are a person of worth to God. We have lost the capacity for dialogue – we don’t want a conversation, just to have our side heard and acknowledged. Yelling is a prime example of this. You cannot be yelling and considering the other person at the same time. But, when we block out a willingness to consider the other’s side, we forfeit our own right to be heard by them.
In either case, whether rejecting ourselves by swallowing anger, or rejecting the other person by becoming unable to consider their side, we have severed dialogue, and so we have severed access to the depth of the relationship.
Ephesians 4:26a reminds us, “Be angry but do not sin…” Anger is a natural part of us. Jesus himself seems to exhibit it as he empties the temple courts. And as a real part of us, we have a call to share it genuinely as it comes into our relationships, in a way that is also able to hear the truth of the other, in response. When we hold it back, we are untruthful. When we see only the cause of our anger, we are dismissive. Either way, we are at risk of sinning against one of God’s precious souls by denying its worth – ours or the other’s. When we share our truth – even an angry one – and both give and receive the trust necessary to honor the realities of anger, we stand to actually build trust, and deepen holy relationship.