What about our anger and when might it be justified? For example, I’m driving home from work and coming to an intersection with a signal light. There is a long line of cars coming from my right waiting to use the intersection. I have a green light, so naturally theirs is red. A vehicle in the right-turn lane, having a red light, turns right and comes into my lane, causing me to slow down significantly. No crash, but a big inconvenience. I can’t move to my left due to others ars trapping me in my lane. I’m in a hurry to get home. Finally I can pull into the left-hand lane and I buzz by the car that violated my personal space. I look right and notice the driver, the one who cut me off, is deep in conversation on a mobile phone and didn’t even notice my angry glance toward him. (I stopped the response at “angry glance,” but let’s be honest here, there are other responses to this, none of which we’re proud of!)
Justified anger? Was there a real injustice, actual harm, or violation of rights occurring here? No, it was just another hassle in life.
When I’m honest and examine many of the situations that make me angry, I must put them in the selfish category. I’m not proud of that. Too many times I get angry about things that aren’t on my original agenda, not my plan, people disrespecting me, hassling me, putting me at risk, being inconsiderate, and the list goes on. As I take inventory of those situations, truth is that I’m making it about me and not about others. I’m stuck on myself and less concerned about the actual welfare of others. Not always, but many of the times when I feel anger and it’s about someone’s effect on me, it has been selfish.
Do we have the capacity to have indignation or righteous anger? I believe we do.
I was serving breakfast at one of our local homeless shelters early one morning. An ambulance showed up and the EMTs were in the process of bringing someone out on a stretcher. The female patient was conscious and seemed alert so I assumed the situation wasn’t serious, but apparently she was in need of medical treatment. I made a passing omment to one of the EMTs just as they were about to drive off, “It sure would be nice if there were another option for medical care than the need to call you guys.” The EMT I was addressing turned to me and said, “I’m not sure that would matter with these people.”
“These people.” Really? Who exactly are these people? I felt my ire rise just a bit. I felt I was a just witness to a moment of judgment reigning down on this woman whom I imagined was desperate, in need of medical care, and having no other options available to her. Perhaps I was misjudging the context in which the EMT meant his comment to be taken. I guess I’m not really sure. I just know that I felt like someone eeded to stick up for this woman. She didn’t ask to be in this situation. I’ll bet she’d rather not have been on that stretcher and living at a homeless shelter.
Was the anger I felt justified? I’ll leave that up to you.
– an excerpt from my new book “Amazed – Why the Humanity of Jesus Matters” available on Amazon