I got my feelings hurt yesterday. As I laid in bed, I stewed and stewed and stewed to the point of almost boiling over. In the rare case that something like this happens, my usual response is to get out of bed, sit down in front of my computer and write an email to the person who upset me. I don’t send it, at least not for twelve hours, and usually the act of getting the thoughts out of my head, down my arm, through my fingers, and into an email is enough to help me let go of my anger. Last night, I chose a different path, mostly because my laptop was packed away and I was too lazy to set it up. I just kept laying there until it occurred to me that I should pray. What a novel idea for a priest in the Church!
I prayed for the people who hurt me. I prayed for our relationships. I prayed for our future together. I prayed that I might be forgiven for my wrongs and that I might be able to forgiven them theirs. I was still hurt when it was all over, and I think that’s OK. I didn’t feel quite as bad, didn’t feel quite as ugly, didn’t feel quite as angry. And while I did write that email this morning, it was from a much better place, and I most likely won’t send it.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians goes against the cult of nice that pervades the modern Church by suggesting that it is OK to be angry… for a little while. Lately, we’ve become so obsessed with not hurting anyone’s feelings, we’ve turned their natural reaction when we do, anger, into a sin. We’ve said that trying to be nice counts more than your feelings in response to our failure, and that is a) not Biblical and b) impossible to sustain as long as people are involved in community.
It is OK to get angry when someone hurts you. It is not OK for that anger to lead you to sin, and yes, I think passive aggressive behavior might be the leading sin in the Church today. It is not OK to let that anger linger and ultimately be defined by it. We need to relearn the virtue of anger, how to work through it, how to pray through it, and how to forgive. As long as the Church continues to assert, passive aggressively (of course), that anger is a sinful emotion we will teach people to suppress it, stuff it deep down inside which allows it to fester, to build, and to control our lives.
So go ahead and get angry, but do not sin. Get angry and then follow Jesus’ advice by praying for your enemies. Get angry and pray for forgiveness your own failings. And no matter what, follow Paul’s advice and don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Work through it right then and right there. You’ll feel better in morning, I guarantee it.