“It’s an angry time, all right,” writes Katherine Ellison in the Health section of The Washington Post. She reports, “Mental health experts worry about rising domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse, warning that Americans urgently need better tools to calm emotional storms.”
It’s one thing to hold someone accountable for wrongdoing or injustice. But sometimes we may give in to the pull of ill-tempered anger. Is there a firmer basis we can find for the kind of clear thoughts and reasoned actions, rather than emotion-based reactions, that bring about helpful change?
Like most of us, I have been on the giving and receiving end of anger – some cases appearing justified and others unfounded. One night, I sat outside my raging teenage daughter’s locked bedroom door as she screamed “I hate you!” for hours. I understood. I had messed up and embarrassed her in front of her friends.
I’d apologized. But that didn’t seem to be enough for either one of us, and the raging continued as I felt upset with myself and defeated by anger.
Finally I asked God to show me how to love. God, divine Love, is unmoved, untouched, by anger. This Love is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). God knows us not as mortals with volatile emotions, but as His spiritual offspring, loved and at peace with one another. Divine Love doesn’t count or even know about the goof-ups. Love forgives and opens our hearts to forgiveness.
That night, as I prayed, my own anger lifted. I sat outside that door and silently, actively loved my daughter back. For every “I hate you,” I affirmed, “No, you don’t. You love. God made you to love. You are made of pure love. No one and nothing can take that love out of you.”
After some time, the house grew quiet and we both slept. By morning, the anger had dissolved. We connected lovingly again. We were both changed and healed.
Jesus said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him” (Matthew 5:25). Jesus practiced what he preached, and as his own example shows, this doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. But flashes of ill-tempered, reactionary anger, like Arizona heat on an Alpine flower, shrivel clear, helpful thinking.
We can counteract the pull to such anger promptly and persistently through healing prayer. Prayer that guides thought to God as the present and stable source of purity, mercy, and love acts as a cooling balm that allows peace, hope, stability, spiritual power, and grace to emerge. When anger gives place to the stability and clarity of spiritual reason in prayer, thought becomes receptive to new direction, fresh insight, and the healing revelation of divine good from God. This is where real progress and change take root.
Each of us can make the effort to rout out ill-tempered anger. It’s not built-in to any of us. God’s love is. There is not a spot in this universe or a single heart that can’t be reached by God’s healing love. We can take a stand and say, “No you don’t, anger! You do not get to win.” As we acknowledge divine Love’s all-power as the driving force for progress and healing, this will lessen the influence of unhelpful, angry reactiveness.