"Anger is not necessarily a sign of unforgiveness. Nor is it always sinful."
I'm telling you, talking with a new friend over coffee does amazing things. Allowing God to bring in the right people, working through them to say the right things, it does amazing things.
And I had to get what she said down on "paper" so that I could always have it. I have been a long-time user of anger. I can remember being angry when I was very little and I can remember being angry this morning. Somehow, I got this idea that anger was the lowest of low feelings in a human, one of the worst qualities we have. In fact, I often feel so guilty about anger that I bottle it up inside, let it shake up a bit, and then spew across living rooms, hallways, and jammed roads.
However, almost always there is a backstory to the anger. I wouldn't go so far to say that the backstory is always a legitimate justification for the anger, but it's true that I've never been angry for no reason.
This new friend, a couple decades older than me, has walked a similar walk as me. She's had interesting family encounters, unique high-school situations, relationships, disasters, fears, and experiences that mirror many of mine. And the great thing about meeting someone like this is knowing that she's still alive. She's got scars and bruises and some pain, but she's still moving, praising God at every turn. She's also using that pain to bring healing and joy to others.
I was telling her about a certain person who has done certain wrongs that deeply hurt me and continue to affect my every day. (I know, vagueness is annoying, but privacy, respect, and grace are stilled called for...for now. Let's just say it has to do with the dreams of little girls everywhere, and the way those can be so easily disappointed.) I told her how hard I'm working to forgive this person, let it all go, and move on. (Because I am, but it's damn hard.) And she said,
"Anger is not necessarily a sign of unforgiveness."
She went on to tell me the times when Jesus got angry. (John 2, Mark 3) He saw people ruining his father's holy temple and got angry. He saw the hardened hearts of religious leaders and got angry. Granted, the guy was Jesus and he had all authority to be angry, but it was the reason for His anger that changes everything.
My anger comes from a place that knows this isn't what we were made for, that knows we are children of God. My anger is directed to the spirit that wants to destroy everything, the spirit that has wounded and hardened hearts everywhere. I am angry that sin has overtaken God's goodness in our world.
So, there is still truth that anger only hurts you and forgiveness is still what we should be seeking. It's also said that if I'm angry at my brother, I'll be judged (Matthew 5:21-23). But this isn't said to be contradictory, it's said to help you check the virtue behind your anger. If I'm angry at someone because of a deep issue within me, then I might want to be seeking healing and forgiveness. But if I'm angry at a sin that has tried to diminish God's gifts and glory, I might have the authority of God to be angry. Jesus got angry when people were so hardened, stubborn, and blind, because they were missing the true heart of God. They were missing the idea that God is big enough to handle, care for, and help a world in need.
Next time I get angry, for any reason, I'll look to see if Jesus might have been angered too. It's possible that a better word is 'disappointed', but if you read about Jesus' life closely, you'll see that he knew disappointed and upset, and the few times they say Jesus was 'angry', they clearly saw the difference in the emotions, and felt it necessary to show the importance and depth of the situation, enough to make the Son of God, God with a Bod, angry.