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Marsh Hudson-Knapp

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What kind of relationship do you have with anger? Is anger your enemy, your owner or your friend? Do you know?

When I grew up anger was taboo in my house. We were never supposed to speak or act with anger or even feel anger. I tried, but eventually I discovered that burying anger did not work. Either it exploded like a beachball held underwater, unpredictably escaping with power and whacking me or the people around me, or the buried anger turned against me as self-hatred or depression. Does anger work for you?

Depression and self-hatred are not fun, but it took me several years to flush out the anger buried inside me. Someone would say something hurtful to me and I’d think, “If that happened to someone else they’d be furious.” Yet I would feel nothing — for two or three days. Only gradually anger would creep into my consciousness.

I turned to the Bible for help and found that anger is a big issue for people of faith. Ephesians 4:26-28 spoke powerfully, and it still guides me. “Be angry.” Really? I felt a great relief knowing that anger was embraced by Biblical writers, but it felt scary. So I decided to investigate anger. Jesus said if we know the truth it will set us free. I certainly was not free.

First, I looked for a book exploring anger and faith. I discovered a great treasure, David Augsburger’s “Caring Enough to Confront.” It’s still in print and my copy is worn from re-reading. I also started journaling. Almost every day I wrote in a notebook, later a computer document, about the anger I was exploring, as well as the other emotions of each day.

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The writer of Ephesians offered a second insight. “Be angry, but do not sin.” For anger to be healthy it needs boundaries. The Passion translation says it, “Don’t let anger control you.” Remind yourself that anger is just a passing emotion. Give yourself some distance. I am not anger. I am Marsh. Anger is just a passing emotion. Refuse to allow it to dominate you, throw you off balance or separate you from the Center, from God, the joy and love and entire family of emotions that make Life whole and healthy.

Third, Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Welcome anger but don’t go to bed angry and carry resentment into the next day or lifetime. Taking this guidance has pushed me. The sun has gone down on anger when I’ve felt upset, but this message kept urging me to understand and work on forgiving. I am grateful because I do not want a life of bitterness.

“Don’t let the sun go down,” offers a fourth wisdom. Don’t bury the anger you feel in your unconscious. Shine the light of honesty and add love to it. God made anger an essential part of our journey. In a healthy mix it can be our friend. Anger has given me the courage to stand up and speak out for justice with compassion. It’s empowered me to speak up for myself. When we blend compassion with anger it can energize us for good.

Raising that beachball up from the underwater into the light of day frees us to toss it into the air. We can shoot it to another, play with it, work with it because we see what we are doing and make choices.

May you experience the anger that comes to your life. May you grow in courage and peace to welcome it and seek the wisdom and strength of life to shape, direct and balance it with love. We don’t have to live as victims of a big cover up. Let the sun rise in you.

Marsh Hudson-Knapp finds rich community in the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council which coordinates this column. You can email Marsh at MRHudsonknapp@gmail.com.


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