In general, we teach people it’s not good to be angry. Anger is the emotion that may be the most shunned. Followed closely by depression and jealousy. However, I would say anger is the one we hear most commonly “preached” against, both in secular society and in churches. Anger makes us uncomfortable. Anger does not ask us for change, it demands it. Anger is harsh and rigid. I think that these reasons are big contributors to why people close their eyes and hearts to anger. This doesn’t mean that anger can’t be taken too far or used for malicious or harmful reasons, this blog post is really just to explore the idea that anger may not always be a bad thing and to challenge us to really think before generalizing its place in ourselves and our society.
When I was in Rome, Italy during my missions internship, one of our base leaders and I were taking the metro back to a bus stop that would take us back to the missionaries we were staying and working with during our time there. If you have ever been to Rome and taken the metro you probably know about how crowded it can get during certain times of the day. At this particular time we were riding, it was very, very crowded. Think sardines in a can, but less room. There was barely room to breathe, people were pressed against the doors and windows, and in the shuffle of people getting on and off at their stop, people came between me and my leader and distanced us a little bit. It was during this time between stops that there was a young man who was very, very close to me. I didn’t think much about it at first because my elbow was currently resting in someone else’s gut so it didn’t seem too strange. However, at some point this went from a man who because of the lack of room was pressed close to me, to a man who was groping my breast aggressively. I was in shock and I was scared. Panicking I tried to push him off without making a scene (I don’t know why that was important to me at the time??), but no luck. All I could think was the next stop was where we would get off the metro to switch and I could get away.
Our base leader knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what had happened until we got on at our next stop. It was there, sitting in a much emptier compartment, that I was able to tell her what had happened. I told her quietly, feeling ashamed and disappointed in myself for not defending myself better. Immediately after I told her she asked to pray with me and as we prayed between stops I remember hearing her say in her prayer to God, “and Lord, I am just so angry at this man for Brianna. He should not have done that to her and it was not right.”
I remember hearing her say in her prayer to God, “and Lord, I am just so angry at this man for Brianna. He should not have done that to her and it was not right.”
Y’all. I had been feeling so many emotions. Shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear, but it had never occurred to me to feel angry. I was so busy feeling dirty and used that I had forgotten that I had been mistreated. I forgot that what had happened to me was not my fault. I moved so quickly into blaming myself that I had forgotten to be angry for myself. Hearing that my leader felt angry for me broke me open in such a beautiful way. It was only then that I began to cry, because it was that knowledge of her anger that reminded me of my innocence.
It was only then that I began to cry, because it was that knowledge of her anger that reminded me of my innocence.
It released me to forgive myself and to forgive that man. She continued to pray that God would send His Holy Spirit to comfort me and soothe my mind. She prayed that we wouldn’t stay angry. Her honest prayer reminded me that what that man did was not right, but that Jesus still provides healing and peace. I will always be so thankful that my leader was angry for me in that time of blame and shame when I didn’t know how to feel angry for myself. I’m thankful that she showed me that anger is not something we hold onto either.
Truthfully though, what I experienced that evening on the metro was only a very small drop in the bucket of what millions of women, and men, experience every day. Church, there are so many people who need us to be angry for them. There are children who need us to be angry for them. There are women who need us to be angry for them. There are men who need us to be angry for them. People who are too filled with shame and guilt to feel angry at injustice for themselves. Let’s support them with our prayers and with righteous indignation to lean on until we have taught them how to heal and forgive through grace. I’m not saying we should be led by anger, but let’s guide our anger to the things that anger God, the things that cause His heart to break, let’s lead our anger to those things and demand change. Let’s demand justice, reconciliation, and healing for those who don’t know how to ask for it yet. Then let’s show them how, with God, we are not ruled by anger, but instead are given strength to make change and let go.
In Nehemiah 5, Nehemiah does a great job at showing us what it looks like to be angry for others. Nehemiah 5 begins by giving us some context on the current situation for the Israelites. They are being taken advantage of. They are being mistreated. They are being put into bondage that they will never be able to escape from on their own power. All for the sake of money and so that the oppressor can continue to become more powerful and wealthy. Nehemiah’s people tell him all of what they are experiencing and Nehemiah 5 verse 6 says,
“ I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words”Nehemiah 5:6 (ESV)
He does not stop at anger though! Verse 7 goes on to say, “I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials.” He thought about it, and then he took action. The rest of chapter 5 shows us that he calls out those who had been in the wrong, he demands change for the oppressed, and then he gets justice for these people.
Church, there are hurting people who need your anger. There are people who are having something way more valuable than money taken from them. They need you to stand up and show them that what has happened, what continues to happen is not right, that it’s unacceptable. They need someone to be angry for them, to call out and declare to others that what was done to them was wrong, and then taught how grace provides strength to let go and find peace.
Nice to Be Back!
Hey, y’all! As you may have notice I took an unexpected break from blogging in the month of July. I am so glad to be back with my online community though and all that is going to be coming in the next few weeks! So make sure to sign up with our online newsletter below! Also, we now post on Mondays! So, that’s new too.
Brianna Little- Communications