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Many of the Seven Deadly Sins seem outdated. Take Sloth, for instance. Many millennials don’t want a lane in the rat race. Their life-work balance is skewed significantly in favor of life over productivity. Their parents see it as sloth; the millennials do not. Of course that is a misunderstanding of sloth, but the important point is that sloth as a traditional “deadly sin” doesn’t communicate well today. It, and others of the seven, feel like the character defects of a bygone era. Anyone preaching about these sins has to find ways to overcome the psychological resistance of the listener.
Not so with anger. This is anger’s hour to shine. It trends every day. It is one of the most defining characteristics of the society in which we live.
We see anger in the many rages we confront (or exhibit!) ever day: Road rage, air rage, office rage, desk rage, work rage, bike rage, commuter rage, sports rage, grammar rage, sports rage, technology rage, and the one about to drive our country into pieces – political rage.
The anger of our era doesn’t simply show in newsworthy moments of rage, such as the rise of shooting incidents in schools and in the workplace. It happens in thousands of other, less volatile moments as well. Anger is behind the rudeness you encounter (or express) in line at the grocery store. It’s the motivation behind a significant percentage of office theft. Disgruntled employees who feel they’ve been treated unfairly filch items as perceived compensation for the way they were treated.
Anger stokes talk radio, sets the scene for video games, and lurks behind the psyche of every bully. Perhaps anger has never been more destructive to individuals, families, and society than it is today. Anger is the spiritual carcinogen of our time. Never have Christians had greater need to confess and repent of their own anger. Pastors have no greater preaching challenge than confronting the anger that eats at the souls of their members.
Be forewarned: Sloth may seem outdated, but today anger is loved. Like many toxic, physical behaviors, people are addicted to their anger. What will they do at night if they can’t rail at an opposing team or political party on social media? Like substance abuse, it gives a big high. It feels like power. But it never, never – NEVER – satisfies a life. It never restores the soul. Even though anger kills, your parishioners may not like to have it taken away from them. Repentance of Anger comes at a high price.
Here are some quotations that might help those who step into the pulpit.
If it is true that the Holy Spirit is peace of soul, and if anger is disturbance of the heart, then there is no greater obstacle to the presence of the spirit in us, than anger. John Climacus
Honest anger obeys three rules. It does not distort; it is not rage; and it has a time limit. Ronald Rolheiser in Against an Infinite Horizon, See pages 168-170 about honest anger.
Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and the right way, this is not easy. Aristotle
Anger is never without a reason, but seldom a good one. Benjamin Franklin
Angry people are not always wise. – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
A man can’t eat anger for breakfast and sleep with it at night and not suffer damage to his soul. – Garrison Keillor
There is no psychological reward for anger…. Anger is debilitating. In the physiological realm, it can produce hypertension, ulcers, rashes, heart palpitations, insomnia, fatigue and even heart disease. In the phsychological sense, anger breaks down love relationships, interferes with communication, leads to guilt and depression and generally just gets in your way. You may be skeptical, since you’ve always heard that expressing your anger is healthier than keeping it bottled up inside of you. Yes, the expression of anger is indeed a healthier alternative than suppressing it. But there is an even healthier alternative than suppressing it–not having the anger at all. In this case you won’t be confronted with the dilemma of whether to let it out or keep it in. WAYNE W. DYER, Your Erroneous Zones
Some of these quotes and ideas are expanded in a previous post Living in The Age of Rage