What really makes you mad? If you're an American, you've got an awful lot to choose from.
You've no doubt heard the term "anger management," a popular approach in psychology to help people control their emotions and the accompanying physiological reactions. Despite the good that this type of counseling sometimes achieves, it's clear that we're not managing our anger very well. In a country with unrivaled material goods and freedom, Americans are an increasingly angry lot.
According to a CNN/ORC poll just before the election last fall, an amazing 69 percent of Americans said they were either very or somewhat angry at the state of the nation. Politics and the divisions it creates, with a big assist from the media, are huge reasons why.
"The way the Internet and cable news work, outrage over any event can be mustered easily," David Pizarro, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, told TIME magazine. "We feel those emotions strongly in ways we didn't used to." TIME says that we are in the "Age of Anger," and it's hard to disagree.
Everywhere you look, you can see signs of this anger mismanagement. As Lee Grady at Charisma magazine notes, "Depending on which side of an issue Americans stand, we are offended by Starbucks coffee, Chick-fil-A sandwiches, Target restrooms, CNN, Fox, Nike shoes, the real cause of hurricanes or whatever the actress Jennifer Lawrence said yesterday." It's no secret that both the Left and the Right gin up a lot of this ready-made outrage because it's good for their business. But it's bad for our souls.
And the sad fact is, too often we Christians are rolling around in the muck with the rest of the nation. There's no doubt that there are important issues and challenges in America, and it's fine—oftentimes required—for us Christians to take a stand. But Lee reminds us that how we do so before a watching world is critically important. We can fight—William Wilberforce did, after all—but let's not fight dirty.
We'll link you to the article at BreakPoint.org to flesh them out, but here are Lee's main points. One: Dial down your anger toward your political enemies. Two: Check your heart for racial prejudice. Three: Wash your mouth out. Four: Speak words of kindness to others. Five: Reach out to loners. And six: Turn up your love for your Christian brothers and sisters. Just imagine what might happen if we Christians started applying that last one more consistently.
So why is it so hard for us to respond differently than the world does to the various outrages going on all around us? Well, you probably won't be surprised if I say that our worldview has something to do with it. As Christians, we sin with anger because we lack faith in God's ability to provide for or protect us.
We also sin with anger because we lack hope. Is it possible that we're expecting too much from this world and too little from the next? As Paul said to the Romans, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Amen! We need a little more joy and peace, and a little less anger. And biblical hope will get us there!
Finally, we sin in the realm of anger because we lack love. As Paul said in his great chapter on love, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth."
So, friends, I'm speaking as a sinner to sinners. We all can do our part to address America's anger mismanagement crisis. And for us Christians, it starts with a little more faith, hope, and love.
Originally posted at breakpoint.org