There is a turning point in the life of an angry man that can make or break him. The only way to put the past to death is to forgive those who destroyed it. To look into the face of those who have inflicted the deep and endless pain that has shaped and formed us and say, “I’m not going to let you define me any longer. I don’t have to. I’m gonna’ break the chain, and I’m letting you go. I forgive you.” Make no mistake. This is a place that is not easily found in the manual of ‘manly men’. There are those who are crying out right now, saying, “I get this, but you don’t understand. I’m still angry. I just can’t let go of my past, what‘s happened, what I’ve done, what’s been done to me.” Or, as one friend of mine put it, “Look, I’m over all that stuff in the past, I’m fine. But now, at this moment, I am so d-mn angry about getting screwed over at my job. What am I supposed to do about that? It’s like, here we go again!” But let me try to assuage what are perhaps some misguided fears. You don’t have to do a happy dance. You don’t have to cry. You don’t really have to do anything. But one day, when you realize the new born freedom this brings, you just might want to do both. It was a real man, the only real man, the man who showed us everything about what it means to be a “new man”, who can and has enabled you to do this. You wanna’ know anger? Jesus himself (God with skin on) one day took all your anger, all my anger, all the anger aimed at you, all the jacked-up anger of all the world and let it pour all over and into his body. Those who brought him to the place called Calvary unleashed a torrent of vitriolic rage with whips and chains and nails, and even a spear gouged into his side while he hung helplessly on a wooden cross. This didn’t just happen to him. The truth is, nobody there had any idea that they were fulfilling a mission that was written in the eternal winds of life long before their (and yours and mine) very first breath. It may have been the physical death blow for Jesus, but this was the eternal birthplace of true forgiveness. In fact, you might recall, he actually uttered the words, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) So what does healthy, or “righteous” anger look like? If Jesus’ actions in the temple were righteous, then I must be able to display those same emotions in my new life in him. The great paradox of God that is that, as the Psalmist puts it, He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). So God himself expresses anger, but it is compassionate anger. What does a compassionate man look like? Compassion comes from a word that means pity, not the “Mr. T” kind of “I pity the fool”, but a viscerally overwhelming emotion of love, like that of a mother. So somehow we have to arrive at a place where we can be genuinely displeased with something or someone, yet seek to resolve that displeasure, somehow benefiting and building up the one to whom it is directed. Because that is what true, godly love does.
If you are an angry man, and especially a recovered angry man, make this your newest and most pervasive discipline. Think long and hard at what you’re angry about and not only how important is it, but what is the best way to resolve it? Your primary aim in extending righteous anger is to bring someone into the healthy, healing light and glory of God which they so richly deserve—and like you once did, they so desperately long for.
“If your rage compels you to smash your fist on a table, consider the blow as a reminder of what the Father already carried out against His Son. What kind of God is He, to turn his fist-smashing wrath against Himself rather than against you [and me]? Our anger is always pitifully small when it is focused against a person or object. It is meant to be turned against…our own failure of love.” —Dan Allender