The Rights and Wrongs of Anger

showing-your-angerGuest post from Glen:

A traffic jam when you’re already late,
A no smoking sign on your cigarette break.
Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife

What do these have in common? That’s right, none of them are even remotely “ironic” – merely unfortunate (please note, Alanis). But yesterday I came a little closer to a genuinely “ironic” predicament: I parked in a restricted area in order to get the permit that would allow me to park there. I know what you’re thinking: What a delicious irony! Oh how you must have been chortling to yourself in that council office queue.

Well no, I was agitated. I was nervously peering out the window every 30 seconds checking for traffic wardens. After all, I thought, this was their  habitat, their nest, the very source of their power. In my mind’s eye I saw swarms of wardens waiting for my back to turn so they could scuttle across the road, enveloping my car in their tickets, clamps and a foul-smelling, white mucus.

As I waited, I found that my anxiety quickly turned to anger. It only took a few seconds, but the stages along that route are worth articulating because I see them playing out in my heart in far broader ways. You see, as I feared the punishment of a parking ticket, guilt began to take hold. Of course I didn’t feel guilty enough to quit the queue and re-park legally 10 minutes’ walk away. No, that would be… um… unfair. That’s right. Unfair! (Aha, now I’d hit on a feeling strong enough to drown out the guilties: self-righteousness). Why should I be expected to park outside the zone? The zone in which I lived for goodness sakes?! No! Ridiculous! The very idea! In fact… by now I was really cooking with gall… I’d like to see a traffic warden try to give me a ticket. Yeah! At this stage I’m actually fantasizing about this potential confrontation. In my mind, I begin to dehumanize the wardens, likening them to insects in a William S Burroughs book. Then I rehearse in my head the devastating polemic I would unleash on them, scorching them with my righteous fury…

“Next… ” said the smiling council worker.

I snap out of my fantasy tirade and smile back. “Um, yes, could I apply for a permit?”

“Certainly” she says, her helpfulness burning like sulfur in the pit of my stomach.

I pay the charge, walk quickly outside to the car… no parking ticket, well I’d like to have seen them try… I place the permit in its holder and drive off with heavied heart and fizzied blood.

What had happened? Almost nothing at all. But internally, everything had happened. It was Genesis 3 all over again.

From that feeling of guilt and shame I wanted to cover myself. I reached for the fig-leaves of self-righteousness but I knew that they weren’t a convincing covering. Then the presence of others (the wardens) exposed me. So I lashed out, playing the blame game – if only mentally. Eventually I left the scene, defeated and deflated.

So from anxiety to shame to self-righteousness I’d arrived at anger in no time. And it could have ruined my day, if I hadn’t stopped to laugh at the ridiculous nature of it all. How stupid to feel so self-righteous! How ugly to feel such scorn! How frightening to see my heart like this!

If you struggle with anger maybe you could pray with me…

Dear Father,
when I feel guilty, help me to put right whatever can be put right
and to trust you with what can’t,
when I feel ashamed, may I know that your Son fully covers me,
when I am anxious, remind me that you work all things for my good,
when self-righteousness rises, show me again that I am just a child in Jesus’ arms,
when I get angry, deflate my pride and let me trust your just and loving purposes.
And when I fail in all these ways, reveal again your mercy and your grace,
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,


2 thoughts on “The Rights and Wrongs of Anger

  1. A really interesting read. Thanks so much!
    I used to work with very troubled teenagers and found that most of their problems with school were mirrored and magnified in the outside world. Enemy number one were the police. After that, anyone in authority / with authority.
    The absolute RAGE that would fly if they even saw a parking warden or policeman was tangible. Most of the problem was that they saw these figures as people who take away their RIGHTS.
    Today’s Western society is so big on ‘rights’ that we forget our responsibilities. We are big on entitlement but low on gratitude.
    The times when I get angry are usually times when I think I ‘deserve’ something and I don’t get it.
    It’s a horrible way to think and the worst of it is that because anger is so quick and so powerful, it is very hard to show grace in the moment.
    Maybe that’s why it is so damaging in our relationships…

    Getting carried away with thought train on this one… But thanks for making me stop and think!


  2. Great insights FF. I can relate so much to anger that comes from feeling entitled; but funnily enough, those entitlements seem to apply only to me…

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