A few years ago, I was walking through an airport to catch a plane to Detroit when a television monitor playing CNN News caught my attention. It was the video of Madelyn Toogood beating her little girl. I felt a sharp, stabbing pain of grief piercing my heart with every blow. I’m not a television watcher, so such images affect me deeply.
On the plane I thought about what I had just witnessed. Over and over the images ran through my mind. With them came some very ugly memories of a time in my life when I too would give full vent to rage.
Many psychologists teach that people should give vent to their anger and that if they don’t, they will repress it and internalize it. This is typical of the kind of teaching that is based in human reasoning rather than Scripture.
The Bible repeatedly commands believers NOT to give over to anger. There are those who misapply Ephesians 4:26 (Be angry, and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.) in an effort to justify their own ungodly behavior. When one looks at the rest of the context, it quickly becomes apparent that Paul was not condoning anger:
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32)
More likely, Paul was saying something like this: “If something ticks you off, deal with it in your heart right away before you do something sinful.” The truth is that—just like with sexual lust—the more you give place to anger, the more it thrives within you. There is an exhilaration one experiences when giving over to anger that is accentuated by a rush of adrenaline. But this sensation actually runs deeper than that. Almost without exception, anger stems from pride. Whether it is attempting to “straighten someone out,” or retaliating, or being defensive, or even manifesting what many call “righteous indignation,” the truth is that pride is almost always at the root of it.
Yes, there is a pleasurable rush one experiences when venting anger. What we often don’t realize is that very sense of exhilaration that makes us feel “high,” also blinds us to the reality of what is actually occurring. From Madelyn’s perspective at the time, she was simply disciplining an unruly child. She later expressed shock and disbelief when she saw her actions on video. At the time, anger seems so justified. But I wonder how we would all feel if we were to see a video of some of the things we have said and done to others at times. On second thought, maybe we will... when our lives are played out before us on Judgment Day. Just a thought.