Why Am I So Angry?

Posted by Meaghan Porter on

Why am I so angry?

I haven’t always been this way - angry. I’m a person who feels things deeply, and emotions like frustration or aggravation are in my wheelhouse. But if someone magically transported me to Pixar’s Inside Out, you’d be more likely to find me hanging out with Sadness or Fear (and stealing envious looks at Joy) than in the presence of Anger. And yet here I am, a person whose last Twitter post was just a retweet saying, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”. Racial injustice. Sex abuse scandals. Misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia and anti-Semitism and on and on. These behaviors are distressing enough, but there is another layer that I find particularly upsetting: the attempted justification of these attitudes by interpretations of the Bible that range from cringeworthy to outright heretical.

And suddenly I’ve found myself burning with rage.

Good, so many people have told me. You should be angry! That Thing That Happened is indeed terrible, and Those People Who Did It are terrible, and let’s catapult all of them into the sun. Alas, technology hasn’t quite gotten there yet. But even if it did, I feel like God requires something better of me. If I use Jesus as my model—and as a Christian, I have to do—then I can’t sit in my anger. This is essentially the premise of Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better, a fantastic book by Brant Hansen I worked on a few years ago. Brant devotes an entire chapter to anger at injustice. I wrestled with this chapter when I was editing it—and still today. Brant makes the radical claim that God calls us to let go of our anger even when it is in response to injustice.

why am I so angryHere are some of his arguments:

  • We’ve substituted anger for action, believing that raging about injustice is the same thing as doing something about it.
  • We’ve fallen for the lie that anger effects change, when the Bible calls us to love instead. And motives matter, because actions born of love change people the way actions motivated by other things can’t.
  • Anger might motivate us to do something good in the world. But just because something good comes from anger doesn’t mean that anger itself is good.
  • We think that because God gets angry at injustice, we should, too—but the king’s anger does not excuse the servant's. That would be putting ourselves in God’s place.

These are all incredibly challenging ideas, but I can’t find fault with them.

I believe my calling requires me to walk alongside people who have been wronged, to bear witness to their stories, and to act as the hands and feet of Jesus in this world by tending their wounds and advocating for change. On most axes, I’m relatively privileged. So I know that I must have those tough conversations where I call out other people of privilege, no matter how frustrating or painful an endeavor that might be. And I absolutely can’t do that if I’m harboring anger.

Still, there is one facet I struggle with.

It’s one thing for me, as someone who doesn’t directly experience many of the –isms that plague us, to stop being angry about them. But if Jesus’ call to let go of anger is universal, meant for all people, then he’s asking the oppressed to forgive the oppressor, the abused to forgive the abuser. That is a mighty tall order. I don’t have good answers for this. Letting anger fester can be damaging. I do know that the world took notice when family members of Amish children murdered in a schoolhouse, and Bible study attendees murdered in their church, offered forgiveness to the murderers. But when we demand that others release their anger, they’re likely to only hold it tighter. So I think such conversations have to be undertaken with great care—especially between parties who are on unequal footing. At any rate, I’ve found myself going back to the ideas in Unoffendable over and over again in an attempt to reign in my rage. Moving forward, I’m going to try to embrace Brant’s idea of action, not anger. I’ll do my best to skip the fist-clenching, shoulder-tightening, face-reddening fury. Instead, I call my representatives. Volunteer with a racial justice organization. Say I believe you to the family member who comes forward with trauma.

I will raise my voice—but I’ll do it without wrath.

Meaghan Porter is a trained tap dancer, a gymnastics and Gilmore Girls enthusiast, and a managing editor at W Publishing Group. She is also wife to Jared and the source of gravity in the world to three-year-old Abby. You can keep up with Meaghan's future posts on Page Chaser's Instagram or Facebook page. HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., operates Page Chaser, the publisher of Unoffendable.
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