What your anger says about you.


What really ticks you off? Over the years I have had anger triggered by a number of things from broken promises to broken automobiles. Most of the time my anger has been inappropriate and misplaced (sadly, this has almost always been recognized much later). Recently I was struck with the realization that a person's anger says a lot about them. More specifically, you can learn a lot about someone by looking at what makes them angry.

Years ago I had a morbidly obese patient come in for a minor ailment. I addressed that problem quickly and then took a moment to comment on her weight. “A more important issue for your long term health is your weight. How have you dealt with this in the past?”

I was trying to be gracious and kind, but did not want to ignore the problem. (Somehow the phrase “elephant in the room does not seem appropriate here...)

She was livid, “How dare you bring that up! That is not what I am here for!” followed by a longer rant. Her response said more about her than it did about me. She was embarrassed about her weight and her embarrassment took the form of misplaced anger.

An example of appropriate anger from a person of good character can be found in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 17. The Apostle Paul was in Athens waiting for his friends to meet him. We see that Paul's spirit was “provoked within him as he saw the city was full of idols.” A close look at the original Greek language text makes it clear. Paul was ticked.

Paul was angry at idols, at false representations of deity. He was angry that people were being deceived into believing something that blinded them to the truth. He was angry that the glory and honor that rightfully belonged to the One true God was being given to to anyone or anything else.

Paul's anger was appropriate, justified and totally selfless.

The righteousness of Paul's anger is demonstrated by what his anger caused. Paul's anger spurred him to positive action. The passage tells us that Paul's anger caused him to dialogue with others about faith. He spoke with Jews, religious non-Jews, and even non-religious non-Jews in the marketplace. (Seems to me that he dialogued with everyone!) Paul's anger caused him to pursue the work that God had called him to do with greater vigor.

Seems that this was a pretty good response! I have to admit that it is very difficult to think of a single time when my anger drove me to to good or godly things, to better fulfill the work that God has called me to do in life. Perhaps this would be a good way to evaluate our own anger. If we stop to check and see what our anger leads us to do, we might see our anger in a different light.