I’m notorious for saying: “no worries.” Particularly when:
- something goes wrong
- someone shows up late or not at all
- something doesn’t pan out like I’d hoped
- my expectations or standards aren’t met
But the truth is: I do worry. More often than not, details for me are hills to die on, nay mountain ranges of martyrdom. Punctuality equates to gold stars in my book. Integrity and consistency make my world go round. What’s more, it’s difficult for me to forgive, both myself and others. I tend to dig my heels into the trenches of resentment.
So, I may say, “no worries,” but often what I’m really thinking is: “Seriously!? Just do your job (and do it right)! Let your yes be yes and no be no.” But if I’m burning with inner-righteous-anger (which is just anger that thinks it’s in the right), then why do I automatically respond with the fretless facade of: no worries?
I think at some point I became convinced or conditioned to believe: anger is bad. (Especially if you’re a Christian.) And, since I’m a perfectionist whose underlying motivation is for things to be made right and orderly and correct and excellent, then I can’t be good, happy, kind, nice and feel anger at the same time, right? Yes and no.
Not acting on negative emotions can both be a good and bad thing. Good because I’m not acting on the impulse to maim someone every time they make a mistake. Bad because even though I’m not lashing out at people, I’m also not expressing those emotions at all but instead bottling them up. Have you ever dropped a Mentos into a shaken-up 2-liter of Diet Coke and tried twisting the cap back on? Sooner or later it’s gonna explode, and there’s no telling which direction it will erupt.
What’s the alternative, then? Purge all emotion in the Vulcan ritual of Kolinahr? Not exactly. The psalmist teaches us to express our anger to God in prayer, not towards our “enemies.”
O Lord, oppose those who oppose me.
Fight those who fight against me.
Put on your armor, and take up your shield.
Prepare for battle, and come to my aid.
Lift up your spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Let me hear you say,
“I will give you victory!”
Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me;
turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me.
Blow them away like chaff in the wind—
a wind sent by the angel of the Lord.
Make their path dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
I did them no wrong, but they laid a trap for me.
I did them no wrong, but they dug a pit to catch me.
So let sudden ruin come upon them!
Let them be caught in the trap they set for me!
Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me.
The psalmist sort of gives us permission to be angry, but the goal is not to stay there. As Paul writes:
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
After all, prayer is not about changing the mind of God but about God changing our minds. In liturgical or formational prayer we are regularly shaped and guided in the pathways and practices of Jesus. We slowly shift from a life of impulsive reactions to contemplative openness.
Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
Raging for rightness does not make things right again. Fury and force won’t usher in the justice of God; only forgiveness can do that.
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Most merciful Father, forgive me
For I know not what I do
What once was hunger and thirst for righteousness
Has turned to pangs of anger and accusation
Satisfy my spirit with mercy
Purify my heart with forgiveness
Grant me panoramic grace-vision
To see my enemies as brothers
May your kingdom
of peace and justice
of wholeness and harmony
Come in your own way and timing