IT is true that for years people have been saying it's OK to vent one's anger because it helps to air frustration rather than hold it in. But too many people are walking around angry. I've even wondered, with the high levels of crime, divorce, and disease, if the tendency to vent anger is not multiplying, rather than diminishing, turbulence in society.
The teachings of Christ Jesus, and of Christian Science, explain that venting anger is not a good thing. Jesus showed how to find permanent healing of anger. He said, according to the Bible, one should not even harm another verbally, for danger of hell fire (see Matthew 5:22). And he said that it is by reconciling with one another and preventing hurt feelings from festering that we can then find ourselves doing God's will.
Now, some people will say this is namby-pamby advice for dealing with serious, long-standing feelings of anger. But Jesus was not a wimp! He showed how love protects one from anger-one's own, or another person's-and gave the example of how to remove historic prejudices and injustice. He even showed how love triumphs over the deadly scars anger sometimes inflicts.
Jesus did not retaliate in kind when confronted by an angry mob that wanted to throw him off a cliff. He calmed stormy seas with peace, not fury. He overthrew the murderous plans of politicians and religious leaders to snuff out his influence, by meekly rising above material-mindedness-by rising from the grave they put him in, and not by trying to harm them. Jesus never loved sin, but he never called for the destruction of sinners, either. He taught how to find and to love what is really true of God's children. The goodness of every individual, he showed, is based in the spiritual fact that each one is the image of God, despite appearances.
The woman who discovered Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, sought to follow Jesus and to teach others what she learned from studying the Bible: that Jesus presented the truth of existence. In her Miscellaneous Writings she said: "The pent-up elements of mortal mind need no terrible detonation to free them. Envy, rivalry, hate need no temporary indulgence that they be destroyed through suffering; they should be stifled from lack of air and freedom" (p. 356).
Instead of "freeing" evil by venting it, this statement says we stifle it by depriving it of life. That can't hurt us. If we stifle hate with love, eradicate envy with joy, and replace revenge with charity, we'll live better.
Once a confrontation I had with a colleague who lied and deceived others gave me the thought that this individual should be brought out into the open for punishment. We had a fight, and I went home weary-and defeated. A nap did not help; I woke up no better off. I got dressed and went to attend church. As I got into a taxi, storm clouds were raging overhead, a yellow-gray color. I said to the cabdriver, "Will you look at that storm?!" He replied, "Gee, lady, they are only clouds."
This had the effect of breaking my fascination with my own difficulties. The church meeting I attended was inspiring. I heard readings from the Bible talking about God's great love for all His children. This enabled me to see my own inherent goodness, and that of my co-worker as well, which comes from God. I was able to stop nurturing anger.
The next day there was nothing to settle, because it was as if nothing had ever happened. Pollyanna happy thoughts hadn't brought about this calm; my recognizing God's love for us both had. And just as important was that fact that I was healed of feeling I needed to step in personally and take control of this matter myself. It was God's job to uncover sin, and it was my job to love as Jesus loved-not battling a sinner, but loving only what was true of God's child.
Rather than confront someone with anger, we can confront anger itself, as no part of God's creation and no part of anyone's makeup. We cannot lose anything by replacing anger with love, and this is the correct way to stifle it. There is everything to gain-especially God's blessing on our efforts.
Articles and features on Christian Science appear in a monthly magazine, The Christian Science Journal.