If you ask me, we have an anger problem. I don’t mean that we’re angry and that’s a problem. Instead, we seem to have a problem with anger itself. We have long falsely placed anger in a box of emotions labeled bad to feel, but now it’s also bad emotion to communicate.
“Be careful how you tell him you’re upset; you could just come across as angry.”
“Those protestors would make their point better if they weren’t so angry.”
“Those [insert group of people I don’t agree with] are so angry all the time.”
When we say things like the above, we’re saying that if a person acts like they are angry, we can–and must–dismiss whatever they’re saying/doing at the time.
That is so screwed up.
Anger, like all of our emotions, is a God-given tool to help us read and react to situations. Anger helps us know when something is not right. Sure, we get angry for selfish, prideful reasons sometimes. (All of our emotions have the potential to lead us well or to lead us astray, just like our intellect can). But anger is still incredibly important for recognizing injustice, whether that injustice is towards others or ourselves.
When I started seeing my counselor several years ago, anger was one of the first emotions he began to coax out of me. I remember one lightbulb moment in particular. I had just described an incident from a past relationship when I’d been treated poorly. My counselor looked at me and said, “Weren’t you furious?”
No, I hadn’t been furious. I wasn’t even mad, at least not that I let myself feel or express. I excused, I justified, I felt guilty for wanting or expecting better. And because I buried and ignored my natural, God-given feelings, it took me a long time to end that relationship.
We have somehow equated being angry with being hateful or irrational. Anger can certainly coincide with hate and lack or reason, but anger can also be loving and logical.
These past several months have been infuriating far beyond the scale of a personal relationship. It bewilders me that in this current political and cultural climate, we chastise and dismiss others for being angry.
We’re allowed to be angry. We need to be angry. Being angry doesn’t mean we’re not also respectful or thoughtful or compassionate, or that those other qualities and emotions aren’t important. Saying one thing is important doesn’t diminish the importance of other, different things.
Next time you find yourself wanting to invalidate what someone says or does because they seem angry, check yourself. Maybe you’re taking the easy way out, using their anger as an excuse to dismiss them instead of taking the hard road and actually considering what they have to say.