“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
~Ephesians 4:26 (NRSV)
Is it right to be angry, because, as it is, we cannot avoid it. As God has capacity for anger, so do we. Anger, in principle, is not inherently sinful. But what comes from anger often is. We do well to understand, however, there are myriad healthy forces for anger.
Get Angry but Be Not Consumed by the Anger
In the first part of this verse, assuming it is allowing certain anger, we are commanded to find a balance in the expression of our anger. In other words, we are told not to deny what we feel. To deny the truth would be tantamount to intrapsychic treason—a betrayal of oneself.
This is one reason why our world spirals into chaotic manifestations of crime; there is too much denial of true feeling, certainly anger.
Where a human being, one created to feel and experience feeling, denies those very feelings, they, at that point, deny their distinctive and necessary humanity.
If we cannot be angry when we need to be, to express what God has ordained us to express, we press these feelings down into a deep unconscious void that is quickly and firmly locked. This might explain, somewhat, why we struggle with further representations of anger—less helpful representations—those that implicate us in sin.
The first half of this verse above is a two-sided command. We are to be angry in accord with our God-anointed feelings, but we are also to find a balance in that anger.
But the beauty of God-anointed feelings, in terms of anger, is they don’t provoke us to sin. Only the repressed portion of anger throws us into convolutions of sin.
Bringing Swift Resolution
The second part of this verse above commends us to bring a swift resolution to the conflict. In the first part we are commended for not smoothing over potential conflict situations. If there is conflict there is conflict. We are commanded not to deny the conflict. We are to bravely confront it. But in the second part of the verse we are reminded to keep the conflict in balance with a higher imperative—the value of the relationship.
The difference between angry feelings that have spilled into unhelpful rage and simmering resentment and that which is assertively poised is how the conflict is handled.
Once we are in conflict can we facilitate a healthy resolution?
Once we are opposed can we bring a quick, mutually-satisfying end to the impasse?
When disagreement abounds, and resentment threatens to simmer, have we sufficient control over the anger to achieve recognition of the conflict, but love in all events?
Relational trust builds where conflict, within safe bounds, is allowed. When we trust each other enough to allow real emotions, greater levels of intimacy are forged.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.