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The Danger of Anger

There’s an old saying in 12-step circles: whenever you feel anger, put a “D” in front of it for Danger. Anger can lead an alcoholic to drink. There is such thing as healthy anger, but few ever practice it or know what it is. Most of the anger we experience spreads out like a virus – a killer virus – that leads to the pain and destruction we desperately try to avoid.

When we’re angry, it’s easy to not care. To just not give a crap. We’re much more likely to swear, to lash out. Or worse. Perhaps it leads to violence, infidelity, murder. Anger can quickly spin us out of control.

Dallas Willard discusses the whirlwind of anger left unchecked.

He writes:

Fear and wrath mingle to form the automatic, overt response of the ‘normal, decent human being’ to a person or event that threatens his or her security, status, or satisfaction. Once this response floods in, all of the other tendencies to evil in the human organism begin ticking away, sure to take their course if not somehow deactivated or repressed. That, however, normally does not happen until damage is done, setting off new cycles of wrath and destruction.

This destruction, anger, and turmoil makes us ask “why?” Why do these bad things happen? The destruction stems from our hearts – whether deed or word. We think it’s okay to be angry – that we’re justified. Yet we ignore the ripple effects.

Willard goes on to say, Once the word with it’s load of wrath is unleashed, the larger processes of evil are set in motion. The little detonator sets off the bullet or the bomb. We have sown the wind and will reap the whirlwind (Hos. 8:7).

No wonder Proverbs says – “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding.”

In light of the terrible destruction our thoughts and words can cause, perhaps the prayer of Medieval monk Thomas a Kempis makes some sense.

Lord, I confess my sinfulness, and acknowledge my weakness. Often it is but a small matter that defeats and troubles me. I resolve to act boldly, but when I am assailed even by a small temptation, I am in sore straights. From a trifling thing sometimes arises a strong temptation; and when I think I am secure, I am almost overwhelmed by a mere breath.

Whereas anger to an alcoholic can lead to destructive drinking and all the insanity that it brings, a drop of anger (from anyone) sets in motion forces far beyond our imagination. Stemming from the smallest event – missing keys, the rain, a TV commercial – these anger flashes can build into a violent storm that destroy not only the peace we seek, but repeat the vicious cycle.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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