Friday, November 03, 2006

Righteous Anger?

Sometimes my unbridled tongue comes out of nowhere, but sometimes it really feels warranted. I find myself wondering, "Is there such a thing as righteous anger?"

Recently Amanda did something, and I can't for the life of me remember what it was. But my response to her was something like, "Did any part of you think that would be a good idea?!?" I really do try to live up the standard of Jesus. I know that raging at my children is a sin. And yet, I keep thinking of the scene in the temple, where Jesus goes in and roars about his house being a den of robbers, and overturns tables. What they were doing was wrong, but he was angry, and rightfully so. I had been thinking about this lately (in struggling to keep my temper), and just recently, I came to that passage in Mark 11:12-17:

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: " 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"
I also discovered another layer that had not been coming to mind when remembering this situation. He curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit (out of fruit bearing season even). So, he was angry and hungry and maybe a bit concerned about recent and coming events, but still a bit unreasonable. It was not a sin for Him to speak this way to the fig tree, because Jesus did not sin.

In asking myself, "Is there a place for righteous anger in our lives?" I again have to look at Jesus. Yes, he expressed anger, but with a purpose. Back to what was noted after he cursed the fig tree, "And his disciples heard him say it."
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:20-25
He got angry, but He also knew that it would be used for a greater purpose, to teach the disciples about prayer, asking forgiveness, and receiving forgiveness.

So if I rage at my toddler for going past the "safe place" on the driveway, might that anger teach him that it really is an important rule? Yelling (and might I add, out of fear instead of anger or impatience) might just cement that principle in his mind.

If I yell a question or command to my daughter, because it's been asked (and ignored) four times already, will that teach her a greater lesson? Other than observing Mommy out of control, no, I don't think that angry response will make her more apt to listen and respond in the future.

I know that crossing that line into sinful anger is a dangerous area for me. I would certainly always rather err on the side of gentleness, but it does reassure me to know that anger in itself isn't a sin, and that it may be warranted on rare occasions.


Kelly said...

Thanks for thoughts! As a mom, I am challenged by the responsibility display and model healthy, righteous anger, without falling into selfish frustration and anger.

Susanne said...

Jennifer I so relate to you in this area! Every time you write on it I am rechallenged and encouraged to continue on in doing the right thing! Thanks for being so vulnerable as to post on this area.

Heather said...

Hard questions. That scary line. I don't have kids, but in general for me, when our my critiques constructive and include me working toward excellence and when are they hurtful, unedifying, tearing, words?

Jane said...

Thought provoking post Jennifer....and something that I need to think about too. Thanks for sharing so openly.

Jennifer said...

I'm glad that many of you feel like you can relate.

And yes, I find that selfishness really is the root cause of much of my anger, and the hurtful nature is a byproduct of that as well (or just lack of sensitivity to another's needs, which I guess is the same thing).

org junkie said...

Oh I agree Jennifer...almost always my frustration and anger can be traced back to some sort of selfishness on my part. As a control freak my expectations can sometimes be way too high and I need to remind myself on a constant basis that they are only children and I certainly don't want my behaviour to become their behaviour. Laura

Maggie said...

I've wrestled with this very thing this week. God more angry than I think I ever have at my kids. I really had to talk fast with God about it, but I just felt that they needed to be reminded that they HAVE to be helping and maturing. I simply cannot"gently" get 3 kids dressed in every step, every morning. They HAVE to step up to the place.

And I had to ask them, "Do you like this? Do you like Mommy in this state? Our mornings can be pleasant. We CAN work together, keep good attitudes, and wear whatever clothes we have clean. You have to help me decide if we want things to change, or if you want me totally stressed out every day on the way to school stressed too totally out to even do the rest of the things we need to do on the way."

I wan't happy with my limitations, but I think it IS important for us show diligence, but for kids to also realize when we're running late and they need to step up to the plate...after all, my oldest are 10 and 8. Time to learn to adjust to people's limitations and moods and needs some.

Mr. Rogers says that kids need to learn they are safe even when we are very angry.

My oldest son thought is was so comical to see me that mad that he kept laughing. He's just not used to seeing it. I had to make him realize I was dead serious.

Anyway...good topic! I mulled the very same scriptures.

Katrina said...

Good thoughts - I struggle with where the line is at times, and while I agree that anger in and of itself can be righteous or at least "not wrong," I don't know that I can always trust myself to rightly judge when I'm on the right side of the line. For me, it all goes back to being in a constant attitude of prayer - and trusting the Holy Spirit to make things clear to me. Of course, I'm not always in that state... I need a lot of work!

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

Great, thought provoking! Since I tend to be feisty here and there, I find comfort in dwelling on Jesus tossing tables, or cursing trees too, then I remember his anger never involved sin. Mine generally does. That he could be angry and it was never prompted by any pride whatsoever, or self-righteousness, or whatever my motives usually are - that alone tells me something of his character and how far mine is from that. Youre right - we are called to be angry at some things, and yet not sin. Just that one command is enough work to last a lifetime.

eph2810 said...

Wow - what great thoughts...When I get angry, I don't yell, but start to withdraw - some say that it is 'passive-aggressive'. Thinking of it - I think it is.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on anger and thank you for submitting it to the carnival this week.

CyberCelt said...

We are human. When I lost it, I apologized to my young child and explained that my anger was fueled by love, worry and horror (child out in the street).

It may have been inappropriate to display my anger by spanking or yelling (or shrieking like a banshee), and I am sorry, but the basic truth remained that I loved the child and the child scared me with dangerous behavior.

This became even more important as my child became a young man. He is testing limits and making bad choices. We yell at each other and then hug him and say, "I love you and I am worried about you." If I alienate my son, I lose any chance at changing the outcome of his actions.

I never understood why Jesus cursed the fig tree. I thought something was lost in translation. Thanks for explaining it.

Here from the BC Carnival.

Next week the Carnival of Blogging Chicks will be hosted at CoolAdzine. The theme will be HOLIDAYS MADE EASIER. Please send your submission to Eileen aka CyberCelt here: cybercelt [at] cooladz [dot] com

Anonymous said...

Nothing shows us our humanity more than toddlers and toilet paper (those two together, that is).

Anonymous said...

again... that famous saying comes to mind:

Parents to raise their children...
children raise their parents.

Anonymous said...

that should have said

Parents don't raise their children to become adults
,..... children raise their parents to become adults

Robin said...

I blow it. Often. Of this, I am not proud. My kids see it more often than anyone else, I suppose...there's no disguising "who" I am at home. But the beautiful thing is how I've come to see God use that in our relationships with each other; how to model a "right response" to unrighteous anger.

When I calm down (after a ridiculous outburst, and yes, when reduced to their most base level, it's usually tied to selfishness), I'll go to the offended child(ren), acknowledge my wretched behavior, humbly ask their forgiveness, and suggest a better way of having responded to the situation. I tell them I blew it, that I despise acting in a way that demonstrates such a POOR reflection of Christ in my life. They ALWAYS respond beautifully to this; this act of humility unmasks any hypocrisy in my heart, and lets them know I'm human; that their sin isn't any greater than my own; taking responsibility for my behavior models (I hope) for them to do the same; that reconciliation (following repentence) is always the goal, to restore a broken relationship. You'd think I'd learn, but I guess confined to my humanity, I'll just keep modeling for my kids a cycle that leads back to right relationship with God. He knows me and loves me in spite of my junk :).