Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why I Don't Understand Anger and Bitterness

by Ben Howard

Yesterday I discovered this amazing Twitter feed. Its handle is @avoidcomments. It’s pretty simple. Once a day or so it tweets out a friendly reminder that you should never ever read the comments online. The comment section is a dark place full of misunderstandings and anger and terrible monsters with nasty, big, pointy teeth. (With the exclusion, of course, of my comment thread which is filled with magical puppies and rainbows, but hurry, I have to get them back to the rental place by 5.)

I’m not saying this to bang the drum against internet comments or nameless trolls on message boards; you can find that in a different corner of the internet. I’m bringing it up because it’s a symptom of this undercurrent of anger and bitterness that is infecting our society, and I just don’t get it.

I mean, I get feeling angry or bitter, but I don’t understand it as the motivating factor with which a person experiences life. I couldn’t envision being angry all the time. It would just be so emotionally exhausting.

But when I look around at the landscape of our culture it can so hard to see beyond the irrationality and the pain. Think about it, how many action movies are just about revenge and the ways in which the main character was wronged. That was the entire motivation of the villain in Skyfall. It’s the entire point of Tom Cruise’s new movie Jack Reacher if the previews are to be believed. It was the sole point of the Bourne movies.
It’s the prism through which we discuss the news and politics. It’s the way in which too many of us experience sports (read through a comment thread on ESPN, I dare you!).

It’s also the way so many people experience church and Christianity. I just don’t totally know why.

Let me qualify that by saying, I understand that the church and Christians who represent the church have done some terrible things and hurt people. Perhaps they’ve hurt you. I know there have been times when they hurt me. I understand feeling hurt. I understand being angry. But I don’t understand why some people stay there. I don’t understand when people engage the world with hostility first.

There’s always the possibility that I’m just na├»ve; that I haven’t experienced enough to truly understand people who are bitter and angry. There’s probably some truth to that.

But I have been angry and I have been bitter. And I hated it. So much.

In fact, that’s one of the things that made me fall so in love with the church and with Christianity and with theology and with, at its base and core, God. It’s not bitter. It’s not angry. It’s about reconciliation and creation and re-creation and redemption and something better than the mess we leave behind. It’s about awe and splendor and beauty.

If you’ve ever read Job, you might realize that God never actually answers any of Job’s questions. He doesn’t engage his anger or his despair or his frustration. He overwhelms them. His presence and his essence are his response to Job.
We will not find peace from injustice through retribution and revenge, but by being overwhelmed by something greater than all of it.

We should still work for justice. We should still work to heal the brokenness that hurts so many and leaves so many angry and lost and defeated, but that is only part of a process that we cannot complete on our own.

What do you think? Am I underselling the value of anger? Am I overselling its presence? Should God have responded directly to Job? Do we need satisfaction in order to properly heal?

I hope to hear what you have to say. (Remember, rainbows and puppies, for a limited time only.)


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at] gmail.com.

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  1. Here is something I've written on this. I'm at work or I'd write more!

  2. It was so nice of another member of our church to point out your article. I feel you are definitely on the right track with it. I suffer from deep depression, anxiety and panic disorder. I was ok for a number of years, but in the last year or so I have been overwhelmed with all of life's anger and bitterness as one family member after another struggle with these feelings and wish to put it all out there on Face Book. I think that FB is the root of all evil on the internet because there are so many who wish to spew their anger all over it. I don't know of any good way to fix the problem or I would. Loved what you wrote.

    1. Don't use facebook.....

  3. You're totally on the right track with the solution: God is the healer of all wounds. But if you want a greater understanding of how people get to be bitter and angry as well as our role in God's healing you should pick up the book "The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus gave You"