To build or to destroy
“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” ― Malcolm X
“Anger is just anger. It isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It’s like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy…Passion has overthrown tyrants and freed prisoners and slaves. Passion has brought justice where there was savagery. Passion has created freedom where there was nothing but fear. Passion has helped souls rise from the ashes of their horrible lives and build something better, stronger, more beautiful.” ― Jim Butcher
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” — James 1:19-20, NIV
Today (two weeks before this post will publish) my ongoing frustration crossed over to anger, at the endless, exhausting bureaucratic delay and obfuscation that have stood for years now between Matt and an appropriate vocational program or even a day program that would give him something to do with his long hours.
His case worker and countless bureaucrats agree he needs and deserves such services. His cardiologists have put their agreement with our goals in writing, citing Matt’s cardiac health as one reason he needs to maintain an active life. But the Commonwealth of Virginia has outdated laws that differentiate between autism and other kinds of disabilities, so doors remain closed for many young adults with autism, even as the U. S. Department of Justice works with the state at an agonizingly slow pace toward resolution of this inequity.
As it happens, the post I published one year ago had the interesting title “Jump in the lake.” So I decided to look at some quotes about anger. The three I chose to feature above each helped me to focus the inner turmoil that threatened to derail my entire day.
Malcolm’s quote reminded me that anger is often a manifestation of the determination to defeat despair. Butcher’s quote confirmed my enduring belief that anger can be a tool used to achieve desirable ends. But the scripture from the book of James, quoted above, ties it together with a wise and powerful warning: that tool should be used carefully, and not in haste.
Note that James does not say we should never speak, or never become angry. But we should be slow to do so. Ouch! I am far too quick to do both. And isn’t it interesting that James ties anger and speaking together, here and elsewhere?
Anger is like fire, helpful only when well controlled. The reason it does not produce righteousness is that it’s so easily (and often inextricably) mixed with selfishness, jealousy, recklessness, and vengeance, all of which lead to destruction.
When I feel angry, it helps if I remind myself that anger is often a sign of fear, and “perfect love drives out fear.” Today, I’m going to make a conscious effort to drive fear and anger away, by filling my mind with thoughts of love and gratitude. If you are struggling with anger, frustration or despair, I send you a special invitation to join me in the effort to use it to build, not destroy.
One year ago tomorrow: