Health & Wellbeing

Spiritual Matters by Rev Chris Sparks

Stoke the fire of love. Not anger

I have a confession to make; I hate confrontation! But I’m guessing that I’m not Robinson Crusoe; I’m not alone in this. There would be many like me who just don’t enjoy the fallout and the emotional baggage generated when some passionate protagonist is angry, and the resulting tirade threatens to engulf us.
But anger appears to be on the rise in these modern times. The Covid virus probably has had a lot to do with this. And while I can hear (and to a certain extent, understand) the arguments of those opposed to Covid vaccinations, I have never fully understood the militancy and the need of these partisans to express their views with such vehemence. It fractures relationships so badly – and at worst, promotes physical violence and riotous behaviour in our streets, as we’ve witnessed in the great city of Melbourne in recent days. But William Penn’s insight may be pretty close to the mark when he said, “it is he who is in the wrong who gets angry first.”
Then again, perhaps ex-French President, Charles De Gaulle’s spin on this observation is worth visiting – though more noteworthy for its humour than its serious intent. De Gaulle said: “When I’m right, I get angry. Churchill gets angry when he’s wrong. So, we were very often angry at each other.”
And anger, according to ascribe in the New York Times magazine some time ago is like jumping into a powerful sports car, gunning the engine, taking off at high speed – and then discovering that the brakes aren’t working!
As an attempt at justification, it’s often claimed that anger can be cathartic for the one expressing it. This was the point a lady was making to the American evangelist William (Billy) Sunday, whose revivals and sermons reflected the emotional upheavals caused by the transition from rural to industrial society in the United States early in the last century. Trying to rationalize her angry outbursts, she said: “There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper. I blow up – and then it’s all over.” To which Sunday replied: “So does a shotgun. And look at the damage it leaves behind!”

The term ‘collateral damage’ is often used today to justify the devastating effects on an innocent party as a consequence of an act of war or other atrocity. But it would be far better if the anger that precipitated the outrage in the first place was turned aside.
The Christian scriptures – specifically the section known as “Wisdom Literature” – contain a simple but profound truth: “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire”.
Much later, the gospels note that Jesus lost His cool on four different occasions – each one triggered by injustice or the demeaning or cruel treatment of others. In itself, understandable!
However, the overriding message of the great Teacher is that we should always act lovingly towards others, even to the extent of “turning the other cheek” when a protagonist lashes out at us. A simple act of love and care will always defuse dangerous emotions and volatile situations. Selfless love will always deny the flames of anger the oxygen it needs to continue its destructive intent. And that’s for real!