Good and Angry

We have to deal with the reality that anger can be a good and right response.

Powlison explains that, at heart, anger “says ‘That’s wrong’ and acts to protect the innocent and helpless. It says, ‘That’s wrong’ and energizes us to address real problems. God, who is good and does good, expresses good anger for a good cause. Jesus gets good and angry—in the service of mercy and peace. He is willing and able to forgive us for our anger gone bad. He is willing and able to teach us to do anger right.” The problem with anger, then, is not that we get angry, but that we get angry in the wrong ways and for the wrong reasons.

 

There are some Christian writers who have a unique voice, a unique means of expressing themselves, of explaining how the Bible applies to real life. David Powlison fits this description. Through the years he has made significant, unique contributions to Christian counseling and, from there, to the ways we understand the tricky depths of the human heart. His most recent book looks to the universal struggle of anger. We all get angry and, at times, we all do anger wrong. For that reason, this is a book for each of us.

Over the years I have read a number of works on anger and often wondered why authors do not dedicate more attention to the goodness of anger, or at least to the potential goodness of anger. We have to deal with the reality that anger can be a good and right response. Some things are so terrible, so evil, that it would be downright sinful not to be angry about them. The title of Powlison’s book—Good and Angry—proves he will take a different route.

Powlison explains that, at heart, anger “says ‘That’s wrong’ and acts to protect the innocent and helpless. It says, ‘That’s wrong’ and energizes us to address real problems. God, who is good and does good, expresses good anger for a good cause. Jesus gets good and angry—in the service of mercy and peace. He is willing and able to forgive us for our anger gone bad. He is willing and able to teach us to do anger right.” The problem with anger, then, is not that we get angry, but that we get angry in the wrong ways and for the wrong reasons. Powlison describes his chief goal in the book in this way: “To teach you how to more fruitfully and honestly deal with your anger.” That’s not to get rid of it altogether, but to understand it, constrain it, and direct it to the most important causes.

He does this by first assuring we know that “anger is not a problem to solve,” another way in which some writers on anger have been less-than-helpful. “It’s a human capacity—like sex, happiness, and sorrow. It is a complex human response to a complex world. And like all human capacities and responses, it sometimes works well, but too often goes bad. Anger creates problems. But having and expressing the right kind of anger in the right way is a good goal.”

He opens with a few chapters describing our experience of anger for, again, we all know anger. From the tiniest child to the oldest adult, anger is a universal experience.

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