Monday, 22 June 2009
I've spoken to lots of people this past week who have shared that they are really struggling with anger. So tonight I've been thinking about anger, rage and the link they can have to our physical well-being.
There is a strong link between emotional and physical pain. When we speak of a person who is annoying or irritating, we sometimes call that person a 'pain in the neck'. When we have great sorrow over a loss, we often say we experience 'heartache'. When someone angers us, rejects us or criticizes us, we sometimes say the person 'hurt' us.
Many parents tell their children that it is wrong for them to fully express their emotions. The kids hear that 'boys don't cry' or that girls shouldn't be 'crybabies'. Psychiatric studies have shown that children who experience a lack of approval and respect for their feelings, when they are very young, automatically develop a tendency to suppress emotions. When they feel their parents, teachers, or others in authority don't value what they think or feel, they tend to shut down their own value of emotions.
One Bible verse speaks of the fact that we need to deal with those issues and situations that cause us to feel anger, rather than stuff our feelings inside: "Be angry, and do not sin" (Eph 4:26) Emotions that become trapped inside us seek resolution and expression. That's part of the nature of emotions - they are meant to be felt and expressed.
I find it interesting that while we often learn to repress emotions in childhood, that period of life is when emotion-triggering experiences bombard us. Even cartoons seem to teach children to react to life with anger and rage.
After someone firebombed his home, DR Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, "The chain of reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, war producing more wars - must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of an annihilation...Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend...By it's very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by it's very nature love creates and builds up".
Walking in love is a choice. Acting on that choice takes effort. Love means choosing to turn yourself inside out for others, to turn your thinking upside down from the way the vast majority of people in the world think, and to go radically against what many people perceive to be basic human nature and pursue instead the nature of God. Loving as God loves requires practice, practice, practice.
Mother Teresa said that the greatest disease of mankind is the absence of love. I couldn't agree more.