Are you justified in your anger?

Anger-is-easy_Brant-Hanse

Do we have a right to be angry? Especially if it’s righteous anger, like anger against sin?

If you’re like me, you automatically assume, “Yes, of course we do.”

But I’m being challenged on that.

I’ve only read 30 pages so far in Brant Hansen’s new book Unoffendable. But I’ve already marked so much that I need to stop and share some with you.

Unoffendable-Brant-Hansen

See what you think. It starts on the dedication page:

“To all those who want grace for themselves
But struggle to extend it to others.

Wait: that’s everybody.

And it just gets harder. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One, “Being Unoffendable: The Ridiculous Idea.”

“The thing that you think makes your anger ‘righteous’ is the very thing you are called to forgive. Grace isn’t for the deserving. Forgiving means surrendering your claim to resentment and letting go of anger.

Anger will happen; we’re human. But we can’t keep it. Like the Reverend King, we can recognize injustice, grieve it, and act against it—but without rage, without malice, and without anger. We have enough motivation, I hope, to defend the defenseless and protect the vulnerable, without needing anger.

“Seek justice; love mercy. You don’t have to be angry to do that. People say we have to get angry to fight injustice, but I’ve noticed that the best police officers don’t do their jobs in anger. The best soldiers don’t function out of anger.

Anger does not enhance judgment.

“Yes, God is quite capable of being both just and angry, but if I’m on trial in front of a human judge, I’m sure hoping his reasoning is anger-free.”

This book’s premise raises lots of questions for me:

  • If it’s ok for God to get angry, is it okay for us?
  • If we’re not to let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26), is our temporary, daytime anger justified?
  • And if so, how long is it okay to stay angry?
  • If all the other verses in the Bible on anger except Ephesians 4:26 are totally negative about human anger, do I need to rethink my righteous anger idea? (See James 1:20)

I look forward to opening my mind and thinking afresh as I read through this book. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

* * *

What are your thoughts on anger? I’d love to hear in the comments.


26 thoughts on “Are you justified in your anger?

  1. blankAndrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Personally, I think he’s out of his mind. Please excuse my bluntness to follow, but I think this guys is absolutely dead wrong. Dangerously wrong.

    Let him stand hip-deep in a mass grave that includes kids, and let him talk about the better soldiers not being motivated by anger.

    OK, it’s not anger. It’s fury.

    Not to be angry, not to mobilize a merciless retribution on the perpetrators is a sin for which there’s no atonement, no forgiveness.

    The reason, I think, is that the “unoffendable” doctrine is the ultimate sin of pride. It’s the abandonment of the principle that the innocent will be protected with all means necessary, and if that fails, they will be avenged, to burn a hole in the perpetrators’ genetic memory so vast that their descendants a thousand years hence will shake in fear.

    If we do not have that, we have nothing. Only words, and high principles that work well in food courts and church foyers.

    So maybe Mr. Hansen feels that anger’s wrong, and that compassion can rule. Fine. Let him return to the bush with me, and he can carry one end of a stretcher, upon which unspeakable things that were once smiling and lovely will be piled. If he can hold to his principles, I’ll be mightily impressed, and will consider it a path worth at least considering.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Andrew. I apologize for only giving you a few sentences out of an entire book. I’m sure the author would agree with you that injustice still needs to be fought against.

    2. blankBrant

      I had to laugh at this. Not derisively, I mean, it’s just that I think I say it a couple times in my book, that the idea seems ridiculous. Like I’m out of my mind.

      I work for an organization that’s all about confronting injustice , and have seen some brutal things in my time. (A good friend of mine, one of our CURE doctors, was executed in cold blood last year at our hospital in Afghanistan, by a man who went on his own personal jihad.) I’ve seen some disturbing stuff, not only in my Afghanistan trips, but all over the world, and in my own home growing up.

      The book spends a chapter on this very issue, and can’t be understood without a bit of context: I do believe anger is a natural reaction. But what the idea that we are entitled to it, that it’s something we’re supposed to hold on to, is completely unscriptural.

      Jesus does something EXTREMELY radical, and I may not like it, but it’s there: He levels the moral playing field, and finds me as guilty as any murderer.

      So I’ve encountered one argument after another, but it’s striking how few (zero?) have actually been scripturally based. Jesus puts us in the role of the “unmerciful servant”, who refuses to see that he has been forgiven for more than that which he is called to forgive.

      I’m not a pacifist. My son will be a commissioned AF officer in months. I’m hardly unaware of grievous injustice. And yet, there’s Jesus, saying I, too, am guilty if I do not forgive. What’s more, the Bible consistently tells us to get rid of all anger, over and over. It equates un-forgiveness with a self-righteousness. We like thinking we should be angry. It makes us morally superior. But that superiority is pure deception.

      That’s radical, it’s crazy, and it’s completely Biblical. When James writes that human anger is incapable of producing the righteousness of God, he’s talking to people currently being persecuted for their faith. Same thing with Paul, when he says to get rid of anger… now. Out of their minds? Maybe.

      1. blankAndrew Budek-Schmeisser

        First, I am so sorry about your friend; there are no words. I also believe that your son was raised in a good home, to enter into a career of military service.

        Anger and unforgiveness are doppelgangers to a degree, but only to a degree. We can’t help but blur the line, in practice, between hating the sin and hating the sinner, while abuse is current. I do agree that once a threat is neutralized, the sword should be stayed. The condemnation that may follow is under man’s law, and should never be interpreted as God’s law.

        As an example, the anger that was fomented against the japanese within the Marine Corps during WW2 was certainly understandable, and can be called righteous (though, personally, I don’t like the term…”righteous anger” sound smug to me). That anger had focus, and purpose; seeing ourselves as the moral equivalent of the Japanese would have done nothing to help stop them – and they had to be stopped.

        But once the war was over, that anger had no place, and I think this is where we may be closer that I would have believed, earlier. MacArthur’s governance put the past aside (bar the obvious bans against rearmament, and the political changes he brought), and in a manner that was certainly forgiving set Japan on the road to undoing the damage of the military cabal. The same’s true for the Marshall Plan in Europe; it was largely a landmark of forgiveness, and its fruits are evident. The Treaty of Versailles was a landmark of sour retribution; its fruits are also evident.

        My real concern is one that’s based in my past; I’ve seen what ROE’s promulgated under a sort of moral relativism can do, and I got very tired of losing friends to ‘giving the enemy the benefit of the doubt’. While I agree that the theological underpinnings of what you say are sound, it’s important to distinguish that Jesus did not use the point to claim the illegitimacy of armed forces, or armed service; it was a nursery of warriors’ rage from time immemorial, and at least in his meeting with the centurion whose servant He healed, He might have been expected to make this point. Speculation on my part, certainly.

        Lastly, and perhaps most important, I would like to personally apologize for the strident tone. I could have said the same thing in a more modulated manner, and I could have left out the emotively-charged mass grave incident; that is mine to remember, and burdening others with it, to make a point through emotional manipulation, was wrong, and rude. I ask your forgiveness for that.

        I don’t think you’re out of your mind. While I disagree with you, that phrase has no place, and I deeply regret it. Once again, I ask your forgiveness.

        I saw these things; I stood in their midst, and I believed, and still do, that we the living must carry the dead in trust. Not for their sakes’ or to assuage our consciences, but for the sake of our children, to give them comfort that they will be neither abandoned nor forgotten – no matter what the cost.

        1. blankLisaNotes Post author

          Andrew,
          I think we’re all in agreement in many more ways than might first seem apparent. This obviously triggered some issues for you that I hope are important to all of us, things like fighting injustice, honoring the causes that people died for, standing up to protect the future for next generations, etc.

          Nonetheless, I appreciate your bigness in asking for forgiveness. If more of us would do that more often, relationships everywhere would be vastly improved. I need to work on that more myself….

      2. blankLisaNotes Post author

        Brant,
        So this is me lately to everyone I know, “You know I’m reading this book called “Unoffendable” and it’s really making me think!” 🙂 I’ve already had several good conversations about it (and my sister bought her own copy of the book). I’m only allowing myself to read about 10 pages a day because I want to intentionally go slow enough for it all to soak in (so now I’m on page 40). It’s not too early to say that this is going to be a life-influential book for me. (Those don’t come along too often.) Now to put it into practice as I go….

        Thanks for sharing more of your backstory here. It makes your points even more valid to me.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      That’s one of the beauties of the internet, yes? We get to share amongst each other what we’re learning and bounce ideas off each other. Thanks for stopping in, Mary.

  2. blankSharon

    I’m already very intrigued at some of the thoughts coming from this book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts as you read more. Anger is a very mighty emotion, and I’m not sure that we’re equipped to handle it properly, even if it’s righteous anger (which to me is a difficult concept, too – as we are not righteous in and of ourselves). So, I think even if we *feel* righteous indignation, we need to be very careful what we *do* about that feeling. Only the Holy Spirit can guide us – when to speak up (and how), when to be silent, when to do something, and when to let God take care of it.

    GOD BLESS!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Sharon. Anger is definitely dangerous in the wrong hands. 😉 I’ve yet to see anybody handle anger totally appropriately every time. I’m not very far into the book yet so I’ll report back when I’ve read more.

  3. blankfloyd

    Those are great quotes. I’ve noticed that my anger usually is accompanied by my pride. Humility is the mark of God in us… God help us. Thanks for the reminder, Lisa. I might need to read that one!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’m paying particular attention now to the things that “offend” me. It’s not been pretty so far. 😉 And for me in my everyday life things, you’re right that it usually has more to do with pride than anything else.

  4. blankBill (cycelguy)

    I like Brant as an Air1 on air personality. I liked his I Am Second video. I’m definitely going to have to look into this book. As for anger, I very seldom get angry. When i do I try to make sure it is not just because of a personal affront but because it breaks God’s heart. i get angry over abuse of any kind. i get angry over legalism. Those all break God’s heart. My personal feelings are not the issue.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I enjoy listening to Brant too. I like that he doesn’t aim for that stereotypical DJ voice but is just himself, like we would be in real life. Except still well-spoken. 🙂

      By the grace of God, anger isn’t one of my biggest issues either. I have to work on it more through the side of offense–I can be too sensitive. It’s interesting that you mention anger at legalism; I have that too. But for me, part of that is revelatory about bitter areas of unforgiveness I have towards the legalistic heritage of my past. Been working on letting that go for awhile now….

  5. blank~ linda

    EEwwww! Another book filled with powerful lessons. Interesting that I have always been one to not “show” my anger (I don’t like anger anyway!), but when I do actually GET angry, I release it by writing about it, talking to my husband as he and I do not argue so he understands me. BUT…when I am face-to-face with the person or circumstance to which my anger is vented, it comes out in tears. I get so mad that only tears show up for work. I cry before the one to whom I am trying to show that I do not like the way they have handled a delicate situation or how they hurt another or even myself. But these tears open up a beautiful conversation from which to begin some healing for me and often for others.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

    PS…Lisa, I have written today on “Just Mercy” and “The Grapes of Wrath” in one post. I just read “Grapes” for the first time in my life and am so grateful I did. Bryan’s book pushed be to finally read it via his mercy for the prisoners. I have just begun “Another Name for Slavery” which teams with Bryan’s book as well although it seems like it will be a heart-hard book. But I am interested in history, social justice and why God gives us mercy and justice. If He gives me these gifts, I should be able to give them to others. Lots of food for thought.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I know—another book, right? Ha. We’ve been hot on some books this year, Linda! (But I’ve yet to read The Grapes of Wrath. Sigh. It’s always seemed too long and too depressing, but you’re making me wonder if I should rconsider. Next year. ha) I’ll definitely look up Another Name for Slavery (this year); thanks for mentioning it.

      I understand the crying thing; that can happen with me occasionally when I get angry too. I don’t like for it to, but sometimes it just happens that way. I like that you write letters to help release your anger; I should try that more often. Thanks for sharing.

  6. blankBarbara H.

    This is a tough one. There are multitudes of verses about God’s righteous anger, and Jesus overthrew the moneychanger’s table in anger, but their anger was never an out-of-control temper tantrum. Plus there are multitudes of verses about God being slow to anger and about His grace in extending forgiveness. He does so not because He set aside His anger over sin but because He unleashed it on Christ in our stead.

    I think humans have a very hard time being angry justly with totally pure motives. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is impossible, but it’s very nearly so. We should be motivated to show grace because of the grace shown to us, but I think in the process of getting things right with each other, it’s ok to express that an action angered us and why.

    It’s complicated…..I’m looking forward to more insights when you finish the book.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes, God’s anger and Jesus’s anger never appear like man’s anger. Anger is definitely something we all feel and will continue to feel; it’s what we do with it once we recognize it that matters. I think what I’m gleaning from this book so far is that once I recognize anger, it should be an indicator that I need to deal with the matter, but let the anger go. We often still need to take action about the situation that caused the anger and talk about it. But like you say, I want to do it more from the motivation of grace, of love. Yes, it gets complicated. 🙂 But maybe I’m just making it that way. I’ll post more for sure when I finish the book.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re welcome, Michele. It’s definitely not a book you can read lightly; I like that kind the best. 🙂 There are so many things I need to think and rethink about.

  7. blankBeverley

    Anger is a sin – right? Even if it is righteous anger, it is a sin – right? We speak of Jesus Christ as being perfect and yet he was angry with those who defiled his Father’s temple. We call it righteous anger, but it is still anger. Jesus Christ is the most perfect person who has ever lived and probably who will ever live and was perfected by his death and subsequent resurrection, but he also understood true repentance and Godly sorrow.
    Anger is a human frailty, which we need to overcome. For many years i was angry at a person who broke my family apart, but in the end i came to realise that the only person i was hurting was myself and i had to let the anger go. No matter what we see in life, no matter how bad the atrocities are around us if we hold on to that anger then we are no more likely to enter the kingdom of God then those who carried out the atrocity in the first place.
    Sin makes us unclean and no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ commands us to be perfect even has our Father who is in heaven is perfect. For it is only in heaven that we will become perfect through the blood and grace of Jesus Christ.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      This sums it up well, Beverley:
      “Anger is a human frailty, which we need to overcome.” I applaud you for letting go of your anger toward the person who broke your family apart. I’ve had to release some anger along those lines too. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely a blessing to do so.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Sarah. This book definitely keeps stepping on my toes! Over and over, not only as I’m reading the book, but now it’s spilling over into my everyday life. ha. But that’s good; it’s what I need. Trusting God’s promise that he works all things out for our good.

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