Can there be such a thing as “Holy Anger”? Jesus’ message and actions were primarily grounded in love and mercy, BUT, scripture also tells us that Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple. (John 2:14-16) This is the conundrum I sometimes find myself in. How should I deal with my anger?

  • As a child I sometimes was angry at my brother. He was such a pest.
  • I’ve felt anger at colleagues or bosses who seemed to me to be a slave to the letter of the law rather than implementing its spirit.

Time has helped me let go of those angers but, in this never-ending political season it seems that there is an awful lot of anger going round on all sides of the political spectrum. My Lenten political conversations have helped me better understand the positions of those who have different political views from me. But I still cringe as I see the weakening of so many governmental policies that serve the common good, raise up the lowly, insure health care for all, and protect the environment. I feel angry.

My anger turns to those in leadership. While my political beliefs are no secret, I’ve been trying to separate my anger from the person. I remember a quote from Dr. Randy Pausch’s talk, The Last Lecture, “No one is pure evil.” So I start to look for the good in the politicians that I think are doing such damage to our country. The best I can do is to remember the spiritual nugget from my Catholic education – Hate the sin not the person. True as this is, it hasn’t helped me to fully let go of my anger.

After pondering and praying about how to let go of anger I’ve come to several insights. Perhaps they will be helpful to you no matter whom you might currently feel anger towards.

  1. Look for the Good. If “No one is pure evil” then look deeply for a smidgen of goodness or reasons for the objectionable actions you observe. Might there be physical or emotional hurts in the person’s past? Have they been a victim of injustice, had a childhood deprived of good models, suffered from mental illness? If nothing else, the anger might mellow into compassion.
  2. Reverse It. I’m not perfect either. There are probably people who are angry with me about hurts I’ve inflicted. In the process of accepting my own imperfections, I must extend the benefit of the doubt to the other.
  3. Hand the Negative Feelings over to God. This may sound overly pietistic, but sometimes, actively putting the other in God’s care can limit the inclination to whine, complain, and replay in my mind all the evil consequences from the actions of the person I feel mad at. Focus on “remaining in love.” (John 15:9)
  4. Keep the Outrage with Evil. Feelings of anger (just like feelings of fear) can be powerful motivators. Let go of the anger towards the person, but act on correcting the wrong. Ideally, we can be motivated by positive inspiration, but often, it’s the anger from seeing the harm and hurt that others experience that moves us to action.
  5. Don’t depend on the Government. Ideally, government can improve the common good more broadly and efficiently than individual philanthropy or small group actions. But if, for example, we cannot count on our government to protect the environment or provide health care for all, then it’s up to us – ordinary citizens – to band together and create structures that will provide opportunity and make life more fair for everyone. Indivisible is one organization that has risen up to meet this challenge. You may not agree with everything any political action group supports, but choose one or two causes that speak most to your heart and join with others to make a positive difference.

Bottom line? Let go of the anger against the person. Let your outrage with evil move you to ACT for the common good.