As the Veteran and his wife sat down in my office, the ambiance of anger, hostility, and pent-up frustration pervaded the room even before one word was spoken. The couple had contacted me, telling me that they were looking for spiritual direction in order to address the hopelessness that they felt in their lives and their marriage. They both described the extreme anger they had for each other, and they were convinced a divorce was best for both of them. At the request of a family member, they agreed to speak with a chaplain or pastor.
Initially, the Veteran announced, “I really do not want to talk about anything, but my wife thinks my anger is becoming dangerously out of control.” When asked how he would assess his behavior, he acknowledged that at times he would be crazed, punch holes in the wall, slam doors, and be overcome with an extremely aggressive spirit. He admitted his inability to control this restless rage. He affirmed that he was deeply angry at himself, what he had done, who he had become, and what he was doing to his wife.
When I asked his wife how she was feeling, she explained, “I grew up in a household where anger was seen as a negative emotion. I really can’t remember seeing my parents fight. I feel like a failure in our marriage.”
Anger, hostility, or even rage may be emotions that you experience from time-to-time. These intense feelings and the behaviors associated with them can cause great destruction in the life of a person and in the lives of others. Many people may try to deny their anger and destructively self-medicate to ease the deep hurt behind the anger. Other people may take out their anger on those they love the most. And some people may have been raised with a misperception that anger is an emotion which spiritually minded people do not demonstrate. In the case of the couple in my office, he shifted back and forth between the denial of his anger and taking out his anger on his wife. Sadly, she blamed herself for having angry feelings.
So, when we feel anger… what is a spiritual response to that anger?
- Learn why we are angry: Having this particular Veteran acknowledge, accept, and address where the anger is coming from in his life was important.
- Understand that there is “righteous” anger: Having his wife recognize, believe, and allow for righteous anger in her life was needed.
- Strive and let go of anger and resentment: Having them trust, develop faith, and hope that God’s Holy Spirit can empower them to let go of anger and resentment and receive peace that heals was essential.
In this topic, we’ll consider why we are angry, discover what righteous anger looks like, and learn how to let go of anger and resentment.