By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog
The greatest Mormon blog in the universe.
Can ye be angry, and not sin? let not the sun go down upon your wrath;
(JST, Eph. 4:26)
For most of my life I have believed that some anger can be good – even healthy. I guess I would call it a righteous anger about injustices and things that are wrong. I have an uncommon name (not just lamonte but the whole thing which I will not go into now) and as people consistantly mis-state my name I tend to get irritated and believe that irritation is somehow good for me – it keeps me on my toes?.
But it is only recently that I have discivered that a contentious heart is the root of most of my unhappiness. I think I am a positive person, most of the time, but too often I am easily offended and spend a good portion of my day dwelling on that offense. I know there is a deeper issue than just anger at the root of those feelings but I guess I’m just trying to say that avoiding anger is the best way I know to maintain happiness. I am miles away from conquering this issue in my life but I think I’ve discovered a truth that can improve my life. We are counseled in our marriages to “never go to bed angry.” I discovered the wisdom in the counsel early in my marriage that has lasted now almost 34 years. I think it is a good rule to follow in all our associations.
If somebody punched me in the face while I was eating a sandwich, I’d be really angry.
THe answer to the question is yes.
but Mark, doesn’t Jesus teach us that if we are slapped on the cheek to let them slap our other cheek?
It is also my firm belief that among us, regular human sinners, there is no such thing as “righteous anger.” We’re too unrighteous for our anger to be righteous. Just IMHO.
Feeling anger is not a sin. Holding on to anger is the sin.
Anger passes, if you let it. Sometimes that doesn’t happen before bedtime. If not, I say go to bed. It is easier to let go of anger after a good night’s sleep (or even a bad night’s sleep). Also, be sure that your are really letting the anger pass, and not just allowing it to morph into resentment, jealousy, or whatever.
“Holding on to anger is the sin.” I’m not sure I agree with that. Will the Lord judge us based on any particular feeling we experience?? I would agree if you had said “Holding on to anger leads to sinful behaviors.” If I am judged on my feelings, well, I’m hosed. (OK, I’m probably hosed regardless but that’s for another thread.)
It’s easy to say “don’t hold on to anger,” but much harder to actually let it go. Humans lack the capacity to control their feelings by sheer will power. Our thoughts and actions, however, are something we can work on. Often when a person if holding on to anger, a deeper look will reveal that he is actually thinking about the situation in a distorted way. Correct the distorted thinking, and the anger diminishes.
It should be noted that the greek for Anger here is orgizo meaning:to be provoked to anger.
So, can ye be provoked and not sin? Let not the sun go down on thy wrath.
Also, Ronan, please apologize for an behalf of all brits everywhere. Boltonians indeed…
Thanks for this post. I was wearing my cranky pants yesterday and needed this reminder
Holding to anger harms the one who holds it.
Matt W., what does the Greek word matter here? This is the JST.
#10 – interesting question
I think mikeinweho says it best in the last 2 lines of #5, only I would change “thinking” to “being.” Anger is distorted being. Feeling anger is sin because it is a manifestation of pride.
I’ll try to explain what I mean. We have within ourselves scales of justice. Our pride insists that these scales are at least balanced. We generally only think of pride in terms of those scales being unbalanced in our favor. But our insistence that the scales do not tip against us is also pride. When something bad happens to us, we deem that the scales of justice have fallen against us, even if ever so slightly. Our pride is pained by this discrepancy and anger a result. Anger is the pain of bruised pride.
It does not have to be this way. We can dismiss the scales altogether. Humility allows us to let go of the scales (or rather, the necessity of their being balanced.) Having no need for balanced scales, we no longer feel debased when something bad happens to us. Feeling no such debasement, we feel no anger. Feeling no anger, there is thus no need to let go of it, no need to control it, no need to try and deal with it. When our hearts are broken and our spirits contrite, anger simply isn’t there.
doesn’t Jesus teach us that if we are slapped on the cheek to let them slap our other cheek?
Yeah, but that doesn’t say anything about ruining your only sandwich!
I believe that it is a general tenet of the gospel that Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.
Because it’s fun!
In President Hinckley’s recent Priesthood address, I believe he mentioned that anger is sometimes justified. FWIW.
Nice one. How long before Yoda gets quoted in G.C. as much as C.S. Lewis?
Anger (righteous indignation) can sometimes be a catalyst for good, motivating one to take needed action that otherwise might not have been taken. At some point, that same anger, if held onto too long, can become debilitating. Yet how can we know when anger crosses the line from the one to the other? I think it’s impossible to come up with an accurate generalization. Every situation is probably unique.
18 – Which is why you should not get angry, but be moved to make a difference. The basis for action should be compassion for the suffering, not the anger at those causing the suffering.
However, then there is Jesus!
Steve M, what President Hinckley said was, “Anger may be justified in some circumstances. The scriptures tell us that Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple, saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). But even this was spoken more as a rebuke than as an outburst of uncontrolled anger.”
The problem here comes with how exactly we define anger. I’m happy to delve into my reading of story of the moneychangers if anyone’s interested (I don’t think anyone is), but I don’t believe that Christ was ever actually angry per se. President Hinckley’s later qualification in the quote is, I think, the more accurate.
14 – I figured somebody was going to just say: Anger, fear, aggression, the dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny.
I figured this will bring out all us Star Wars geeks! 8) The sad thing is that my quote was the first quote I thought of when seeing the scripture.
A quick search for anger and angry in the scriptures will provide you with many references of a God who at times is angry. This would suggest that there is such thing as righteous anger, though we humans may not know where the line is drawn.
I think the cited verse is telling us to deal with our feelings in an expedient manner, but I don’t think it is telling us to somehow instantaneously purge our feelings. One reason we’re here is to master our emotions and not let them master us. Don’t let something that angered you consume even a portion of your life.
I need to work on this.
Anger motivates me to change. “O wretched man that I am!”
KyleM, those same scriptures describe God as jealous and vengeful.
Anger may be warranted in the case of sandwich-punching, depending on the sandwich. If the sandwich were the Broodwich, anger might be what the sandwich wants.
A quick search for anger and angry in the scriptures will provide you with many references of a God who at times is angry. This would suggest that there is such thing as righteous anger, though we humans may not know where the line is drawn.
I said that among us sinners there is no such thing as righteous anger. Obviously God can get angry, and his anger is righteous. We, not being righteous, are not justified to anger.
Yes, Eric, many of them do. What do you make of that? Is there such thing and righteous jealousy and vengance? Perhaps. That would certainly be an easier sell in the church 150 years ago.
The most interesting line in President Hinkley’s conference address on anger was this:
“Anger may be justified in some circumstances. The scriptures tell us that Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple, saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). But even this was spoken more as a rebuke than as an outburst of uncontrolled anger.”
So is Pres. Hinkley suggesting that the appropriateness of our anger turns merely on whether or not it is “controlled”? When we condemn anger, are we really reacting to the frenzied behavior that often accompanies it, rather than the feeling itself? If someone other than Jesus reacted as Jesus did, I wonder if many of us would find it easy to condemn the behavior, even if we don’t want to condemn it in the case of Jesus himself.
A literal reading suggests that it might be ok to be angry, just not at sundown. I wonder if this explains why my wife gets the most angry/upset AFTER the sun has gone down…
Aaron, I’d suggest that we are the least qualified to evaluate whether our own anger is justified. Anger might be justified in some circumstances, but as failed mortals I doubt any of us can speak truthfully in the instance as to the righteous/justified quality of our anger.
I doubt any of us can speak truthfully in the instance as to the righteous/justified quality of our anger.
Even less so when we observe the anger of others–as many of us are quick to judge. Something that I have to work on all the time.
But how is your observation useful to me, Steve, if I’m someone who wants to be vigilant about my own tendency to anger, but who also recognizes that it can be an asset that I can channel into something good. Isn’t your comment tantamount to saying “One should never assume one’s own anger is justified (even if it might be), and should strive to excise it from oneself no matter what the circumstances”?
I guess this whole discussion bothers me somewhat in that we’re mostly speaking so abstractly about “anger” that I’m not sure how to apply any particular insight in concrete, real-world situations. I’m sure we’re all imagining different sorts of scenarios when we talk about “anger.”
The first part of the quote is a question – perhaps rhetorical, perhaps individual, perhaps with morethan one possible answer for even the same person in different situations. The second is an admonition – that I tend to read as more of a universal plea, noticing that the word choice has changed.
Anger can be many things to many people, but “wrath” universally carries a much stronger connotation of extreme anger – anchor that demands action – anger in action. I read this verse and think, “No matter what your individual response is to the first question, don’t let it turn to wrath – even for the few hours or minutes left in the day.”
Having said all of that, I try to avoid feeling angry, as I have seen the blessings of never getting angry from at least three people in my life – my mother and two wonderful Japanese missionaries, one of whom had multiple and “good” reasons to be angry. It truly is a blessed state when one never gets angry and never lets it turn to wrath.
AB, that’s a fair reading of my comment. You’re right that it’s not very useful to those of us who are just angry all the time and want to learn how to channel that anger in righteous ways, but c’est la vie. In fact, your reinterpretation of my comment strikes me as very close to the ideal rule.
As for the definition of anger, you’re right to point out the definitional nebularity. But the same problem would befall the discussion of any emotion.
Kyle, what I make of it is that the scriptures aren’t always literal.
Aaron, good point. Let’s make this a little more concrete. And a little more interesting. I will paypal $10 to anyone who can give me a scenario wherein anger is “righteous” or “justified” that I can’t counter.
Folks, you know you all want to be like Steve and make money blogging: now’s your chance.
OK Eric, a concrete example: Moroni, in defending his people writes a letter to Ammaron and says in Alma 54:13:
13 Behold, I am in my anger, and also my people; ye have sought to murder us, and we have only sought to defend ourselves. But behold, if ye seek to destroy us more we will seek to destroy you; yea, and we will seek our land, the land of our first inheritance.
Was Moroni’s anger justified? Read the whole chapter. Moroni certianly thought so. So do I.
Instead of looking to the stories of people in the scriptures, which seldom provide more than the barest of details (and even then, only one side of them), or to our conceptions of a perfect God, perhaps a better approach to evaluating anger is to look inside ourselves to see how it affects the ways that we think and act towards God, towards ourselves, and towards our sisters and brothers.
Does anger make us less self-centered or more self-centered?
Does anger make us more able to feel love toward our brothers and sisters (including the ones we’re angry at/about) or less?
Does anger make us more willing to extend beyond ourselves for the benefit of others (including the ones we’re angry at/about), or less?
For me, at any rate, anger makes me contract inward — even when my anger is sparked by one person’s ill-treatment of another — not extend outward.
Even so-called “righteous” anger is usually a way of alienating ourselves from some person or group — the ones we deem to be malefactors.
A real belief in the hereafter should lead us to conclude that a person harming an innocent is causing, in an eternal scheme, himself more harm than he is causing the innocent. If we truly believed that, wouldn’t we feel great compassion and sorrow for the one who — deluded as to how the world operates — harms the innocent believing that to be the course most likely to lead to his own happiness? That we don’t either tells us something about our belief in a justice-creating hereafter or something about the dubious quality of our judgment and compassion and instinct in this life.
I’ve yet to see an example of righteous anger in my life that wasn’t heavily shaded with overt self-interest or ego-driven practices of identification and exclusion.
So for my purposes, I try to treat anger simply as a feeling that arises. When it does, I try to notice the feeling arise. I try to notice the context in which it arises. I try to notice what part(s) of me respond to the feeling. I try to notice how long the feeling sustains itself. And I try to notice what happens when the feeling subsides.
What I try not to do (with very, very limited success, so far) is to jump onto the wave and ride it wherever it may take me, even (especially?) when I think that the anger is “justified.”
Very good timshel. Alas, we encounter problems when dealing with third party texts – especially ones we believe to be authoritative. There is a possibility that Moroni wasn’t truly angry and that the word he used was simply the best he had in his vocabulary, or perhaps it was the best that Joseph had in his.
But let’s give the text the benefit of the doubt and assume that the word “angry” as Moroni uses it really does mean angry in the traditional sense. If so, Moroni was wrong to be angry. Not a big deal really. So altruistic is Moroni’s anger here that his sin is very minor, on a par perhaps with something Ned Flanders-like. Like coveting a leadership position in a low-key volunteer organization.
Nonetheless, I do not see wherein it can be fully labeled as justified. I see two potential arguments on behalf of its justification, let me know if there’s something I’m missing. The first is that his anger motivated him to good action, akin to what Aaron is pointing to in comments above. The second would be that his anger was justified because his people really were being wronged.
For the first argument: there is no good action for which anger is the only potential motivation. He could have been motivated to do the right thing simply because it was the right thing without ever having become angry. But if that right and necessary action is chopping up other people with your sword, don’t you need to be motivated by anger to do it (or at least to do it well)? No, you don’t. You can chop people up just fine and not be angry at them. Love for the innocent can be just as strong a motivation.
As for the second, we would probably all agree that if the Lamanites had all just stuck their tongues out at the Nephites, anger would not be justified. The more grievous the wrongs become against the people, the more understandable anger becomes to us. Surely we think, the scales of justice really are imbalanced and thus the anger that results by the imbalance is justified. But the apparent reality of being wronged is itself the deception of anger. In our anger, we deceive ourselves into believing that we are right to emotionally raise ourselves up and feel negatively towards others.
The gist of what I’m saying here is that love for the wronged need not be the same as anger for the wronging. Anger and loving the neighbor are mutually exclusive. But loving the neighbor and chopping up the neighbor are not – and this seemingly counterintuitive fact is what I think generally throws us off on this issue. Anyway, please call me out anyone if you find my holes in my admittedly rough arguments. I enjoy trying to clarify my thinking on this one, if only for purely selfish motivations.
Those among us who really want to remain angry should advance the argument that this scripture, as shown, is not canonical.
I am forced to admit that the above statement (38) is simply beyond my ken. If we can’t believe that Moroni really meant it (or even understood it) when he said that he was angry then there doesn’t seem to be any basis for argument–atleast I have not the intellect for it.
I didn’t really think I would get the $10 anyway.
Regardless of scriptural hair-splitting and citing references where anger is justified…
When I get angry, I instantly regret it and it makes me feel stupid. My inner self mocks my anger flashes, tsks them, rolls its eyes, calls me a maroon. Joseph Smith, who frequently blew his cool, once stopped himself and said to those with whom he argued, “Are you not ashamed of such a spirit? I am.” If that isn’t a clue as to the source of anger…
I think a man’s merit can be gauged by (among other things) how long it takes him to get angry. And just saying makes me want to repent and be better. I think it’s also gauged by how he harnesses that anger. It’s not so much getting angry, it’s what you do with the anger that determines your mettle. I don’t know if Moroni was quick to anger, if he ranted and raved and threw his plate of cold eggs at Mrs. Moroni… but it seems in instances like Alma 54:13, the anger was a long time coming and he harnessed it in a righteous and necessary way. I can’t say the same for me, 99.9% of the time, and probably not for most others, of what I had witnessed.
Least I be misunderstood. I agree that most humans do not have the strength, rightousness or capacity for rightous anger. I know that I do not. I believe it is possible (in Moroni’s case, for example). But most of us are simply unable to channel such a dangerous emotion in a positive direction. D. Tedder and Eric, we all agree. I should have put a :-) at the end of #40.
KJV Mt. 5:22 reads “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” The BoM and JST parallels both omit the qualification “without a cause.” These three words represent a single Greek adverb, eike, which almost certainly was not a part of the original text, but was an addition by scribes who felt the original saying, which did not allow anger for any reason, was too strict.
Just as the original JST quotation in this thread appears to be an absolute proscription against anger, so too in this case Joseph in his inspired translation projects went against the softening corruption of the scribes back towards the original, harder saying.
Eric, here’s a good scenario for you to think about.
Numbers 24:22 ‘And God’s anger was kindled because he went:…’
24:27 ‘And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.’
24:29: ‘And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.’
Here we see both the anger of God, and the anger of Balaam in which righteous indignation is practiced.
Read the chapter and you’ll see what I mean.
Now pay up, soldier.
Not my money, but I don’t see it – in the quoted verses or the chapter as a whole.
Terry, I’m not a soldier. But somehow I think you know that.
Terry, I tried to be subtle, but I now simply will echo Eric.
In abusive situations, it often takes the abused person getting angry before they can break out of the cycle of abusive relationships. After anger comes acceptance and forgiveness, but anger seems to be nearly essential (or essential for some people) in order to progress out of relationships in which they are chronically abused. In that case it’s very useful.
When Gandhi got thrown off the train it made him angry. I think he turned that anger into something good. What if he never got angry, though? What if he was that perfect a person? Would the British still rule India in that case?
I think anger is useful, and it also enhances survival chances in many situations. I don’t think it’s always a sin. Venting it freely on whomever is around when the feeling strikes is definitely a sin. Feeling it, and using its energy toward a positive end is not.
Using Gandhi as an example of righteous anger is hilarious. He was well known for his short temper and his tendency to belittle and attack others personally. I will agree that the idea of nonviolence — not actually how it was done by Gandhi but the general principle — is a good model for us.
I know what anger is for me — loss of control, holding on to an incident and nursing it, justification of blaming and judging — and I know it is a sin. It is damn hard to control our emotions, but it’s what is required of us … which is probably why we all talk about the word of wisdom and paying tithing so much and avoiding anger and being patient not so much.
When I think about anger in an abstract and detatched manner, I can agree that it has value. But when I review my own experience, I cannot think of a time when I have been angry when I was not ashamed later, and filled with regret.
Having grown up with a parent whom, in my memory, I never once saw react in anger, and knowing the amazing results firsthand, I feel very strongly about this topic. I wrote #33 trying hard to focus on what seemed to me to be the most obvious aspect – not letting anger turn to action and become wrath. However, greenfrog’s and Kevin’s and Norbert’s comments (especially) spurred me to add the following.
When I read the Sermon on the Mount – the blueprint we have for becoming perfect (whole and complete), I have a very hard time defending anger – especially when it turns to wrath, but even before then. I just don’t see it anywhere in those chapters. I think anger is one of the most basic natural instincts, and I believe that eliminating that natural tendency is one of the most fundamental aspects of learning to forgive truly and completely. It’s impossible to forgive while anger exists, and anger impedes understanding and repentance and charity and compassion and patience and perhaps any other virtue it is possible to list.
I can understand the intellectual argument that posits anger as a first-level motivator, but not getting angry and not “letting the sun go down on wrath” is exactly what I am trying to learn. Tt is one of my goals to bite my tongue and take deep breaths and let the initial emotion pass before I react to any provocation – to never make a decision or say a word or take an action in the grip of anger – and, if possible, learn to dismiss anger entirely – to learn to be motivated by love instead – to act out of love for the attacked instead of anger toward the attacker.
My sixth child has taught me that I still have more to accomplish in this area than I thought prior to the last year – and Pres. Hinckley’s talk in the GC Priesthood Session was the motivator to change how I react to her temper tantrums. It is amazing the difference I have observed in the last two weeks – as I have focused consciously on simply not letting myself get angry with her – to remain calm and patient in the midst of her storms. Truly, it is amazing.
More Featured Posts
The Living Christ
Enter your email address to follow BCC and receive new posts by email.
Return to top of page
Blog at WordPress.com. · Customized Minimum Theme.
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.
Join 8,191 other followers