Lessons From Expert Feelers (Part 2.3): Use your body

26 04 2010

You know you want to.

A word about anger

Many people – especially Christians – have very good reasons for being wary of any talk about expressing anger.  First of all, anger is dangerous: It usually involves a desire to hurt or even destroy something or someone.  Second, the Bible gives some very strong warnings about the dangers of human anger.

I am not advocating the unleashed, unbounded expression of anger (or any emotion for that matter) at absolutely any time.  There is a time and a place for safely and healthily expressing emotions.  (Like in a field for example…)

But a problem arises when people say, “Hm… the Bible warns against this.  I’d better not express it”, because it ignores one simple fact: You ARE feeling it!  Very often, giving full vent to your anger – in a safe, contained environment – is required before the anger can be dealt with.  Showing it to God is akin to the doctor (God) who is treating you saying, “I think I can help you, but first, let’s see what we’ve got here.”

When you do this, it can manifest itself in some scary ways: Yelling, screaming, mean words; even hitting or breaking something (crucially something that you’ve decided in advance is ok for you to break!).  When you let it all out, all your ugly words, all your right and wrong desires –  with God and perhaps a trusted friend (NOT the object of your anger!) – then and only then can you truly say, “Wow, God.  I’ve let you see everything in me.  I had no idea just how intense my anger was.  Thank you for loving me still, and for forgiving me for the parts of those feelings and desires that are wrong.  Will you show me where to go from here?”

Present yourself – all of you: mind, emotions, and body – fully to God, with no requirement that you “clean yourself up” beforehand.  Show your innermost intensity to the God who made you and loves you, who can take absolutely everything you lay on the table.  He is the only one who can “clean you up”.

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3 responses

26 04 2010

I like this… expressing even anger is good… but what about in your anger do not sin? I think it’s important to be in touch with one’s emotions, but shouldn’t one also be in control of their emotions to a certain extent? Some really good advice I got once was to identify your emotion; but then to realize that you aren’t your emotion, you have an emotion, and you have the power to act rationally in the face of that emotion. God most certainly has the power to heal broken emotions and wounded hearts… but isn’t a certain degree of self-control and rationality required on our parts? I don’t think God will wave a magic wand if we aren’t active with Him in His process, and I think it’s dangerous to completely remove one’s own volition from the equation. In all of the forces: God, emotions, the world, sin, etc… mustn’t we acknowledge that we too are a component?

5 05 2010
Jomo S. Thompson

First off, great clip. One of the funniest I’ve ever seen.

Your “breaking things” comment reminds me of the scene in Harry Potter 5 where Harry (upset from Sirius’ death) gets angry in Dumbledore’s office and starts breaking things. Dumbledore tells him to carry on breaking his things, for he “has too many.” It makes me wonder if one of the reasons we hold back our emotions is to protect our stuff. You can’t have an up and down emotional life and hold down a six figure job. You can’t live in a mansion you have paid for yet and throw tantrums. When everything you have costs so much and you need to make gobs of cash on an ongoing basis, emotions can get in the way. So we hold back, we only let emotions out that don’t go too far, lest we lose a valuable investment.


10 05 2010
Tim Courtois

I was just reading in 2 Kings where Elijah was taken up to heaven. Elisha – his successor – was so upset about losing his friend that he “took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart”.

Reminds me of what you’re saying here, Jomo. My first thought on reading that was, “Hm… I would never do that. I like my clothes! Maybe I could do it with some old shirt that I don’t wear anymore…” My attachment to my material possessions prevents me from this “full” expression of emotion.

Love the Harry Potter reference. That Dumbledore… so wise.

Ashley – I think that there is a fine line between what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate with regard to these kinds of expressions of anger. And I definitely don’t know exactly where that line lies. (A person who is daily tearing his/her house apart as an expression of anger has probably crossed that line…)

But what I do advocate is that there are times where I think it’s ok to – intentionally, thoughtfully – create a safe place for letting it out. Take the Office Space example: Taking a printer out into a field and destroying it is ok; doing the same thing AT WORK would get you arrested. (Um… and you also shouldn’t steal stuff. That part of the clip is not ok either. ;))

Again, I wonder if balance isn’t a major part of the equation here: If I’m running away to destroy something five times a day to vent my anger, I might have lost balance here.

BUT – the goal of expressing anger in this manner, in my mind, is to “lay it on the table” and then wrestle with God in the midst of it. The point isn’t simply to destroy something, say, “That felt good”, and then walk away. The point is to let it out, and then interact with God about it.

If one is honestly doing that with God, I don’t think it’ll be happening five times a day, because I think the anger will get dealt with. The good anger will be affirmed, and the Spirit will move the person towards forgiveness and a patient trust in God’s righteous judgment/vengeance. The bad anger will be pointed out as such, and the person will repent and ask God for healing.

You asked, “mustn’t we acknowledge that we too are a component?”. I like what you’re saying here, and I agree. If a person goes “into the field” as it were saying, “Welp, I’ve got this anger and I guess I’ve got no choice but to just let it do its thing, because I’ve got no control over it”, that’s not appropriate. Part of the point of doing something like this is exactly what you’re saying: to come to a fuller realization of exactly who I am and what I have to take responsibility for. “This is my anger, and I have to own it as a part of me, while also bringing it into harmony with the rest of me.”

Ooohhh….! “Where the Wild Things Are” is a great movie for this! In that movie, Max has to come to terms with his anger: recognizing that just because he is angry at his mom, it doesn’t mean he wants to run away and never be with her again. In the movie, you can see him figuring out, “I’m angry at my mom… but I also love my mom. How can I have both?” He can’t learn that lesson until he steps into the world of his “wildness”. He looks his wildness “in the eyes” as it were, and learns how to wield it as a part of himself without destroying the things (and people) that he loves.

Longest comment ever.

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