I have been troubled by the amount of violent crime we experience in Wichita on a regular basis. Last weekend, there were four shootings over two days, within two miles of each other. KAKE News had a special report on community violence in Wichita. Or, on a global scale, what about the bombing in Manchester, England? 21 dead and over 75 injured. What is the answer? As you would expect, I want to answer from the perspective of how God created the soul to function.
First, another chart.
I came upon this chart thanks to a Christian psychiatrist, Dr. David Allen, M.D. and have found it to be extremely helpful in describing how the soul functions once one has experienced hurt, brokenness, or pain. Anger is a secondary emotion, that is, we must feel hurt, frustration or betrayal first before the soul feels anger. Once we feel the anger (which hides the hurt), if we do not resolve the anger in a reasonable amount of time, the soul seeks revenge (which hides the hurt and anger). Revenge has four major manifestations. Please let me talk about each one.
First, destructive action is typically the most violent and is often deadly. For the terrorist, the inflamed rhetoric creates for the feeling of frustration and betrayal which leads to intense rage and a desire to seek revenge. All violent crime comes under this category of explanation.
Secondly, sometimes the hurt-anger-revenge leads to passive aggressive behavior. Passive-aggressive behavior is the indirect expression of hostility, such as through procrastination, stubbornness, tardiness, or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible. Passive aggressive behavior focuses on being indirect rather than directly dealing with the situation at hand.
Thirdly, another manifestation is to experience psychosomatic symptoms such as one becoming ill with headaches, stomachaches, aches and ailments of all sorts, etc. One of my seminary professors, a Roman Catholic nun, was a specialist in holistic health. She taught us seminarians that sometimes, when a person is feeling deeply powerless, they will have lung problems and struggle with breathing. She was clear that not all lung problems means one is powerless but the holistic research does show that unresolved emotion can lead to physical symptoms.
Finally, most commonly, the unresolved hurt-anger-revengefulness may lead to depression. Dr. Allen describes the most common form of depression as ire turned inward. There are many reasons for depression, this is simply one of them.
As Dr. Allen taught me, one can experience one or more of the four manifestations of unresolved hurt-anger-revengefulness.
Further Thoughts on Anger
Jesus had a lot to say about anger in the Sermon on the Mount. In August, I am going to be preaching from the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus teaches us so clearly about how to live without unresolved emotion. Jesus’ teaching is deeply profound – simple but certainly not easy.
Without preaching my sermon on how to live without unresolved anger, let me share one nugget of wisdom from Jesus. Anger is a God-given gift! But, like most gifts, it requires careful treatment. However, in Jesus’ teaching, we learn we must resolve anger quickly because Jesus knows how we can misuse and abuse this gift.
I leave you this week with one of my favorite quotes on anger by the Presbyterian pastor, Frederick Buechner:
“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”
–Rev. Jeff Gannon