If you spend much time listening to angry people, you’re probably going to feel a lot of anxiety. I’ve heard a lot of tense talk over social media, over the news media, and in person over recent weeks and months. Anger may wield a strange magnetism to understand it, step into it, or reject it. We can choose to listen, engage, or walk away. We may not always know the source or the solution to someone’s anger, but we can know one thing. Peace is prevented when anger is attracting.
It’s Presidents Day as I write, and as it often does in Portland, it’s raining. From our second story window in an old hotel, I see cars passing a corner where homeless people huddle under scraps of plastic. Last night, this agitated assortment seemed dangerously close to an angry overflow. If they would’ve been in suits and behind podiums, they might’ve appeared as “authority” instead of “anarchy.” Over breakfast, Jeff and I talked about the difference between homeless people crouching by the empty bank building and guests drinking hot coffee at tables. What makes for one and not the other? Being inside or outside, or in the rain or out of the rain, does not guarantee finding peace.
I’ve been reading a book called “Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages that Shaped our History,” and it’s clear my nation has always been led by flawed men. The women at their side and allies they chose influenced the courses they followed and the measure of their successes. Closed doors sometimes concealed hot tempers and troubled minds born from pain or longing. At times, we’ve been led by unstable men. Men who, in a different time or circumstance, might’ve been across the street from my window, huddled under plastic outside the vacant bank building.
In this current, there is a lot worthy of concern. As I write, the street below leads to a square filled with protesters. I wonder if they’re angry. When troubled minds and makeshift camps collide, tension rises. There is a lot of tension in our current time of history. If we speak up or act up without careful consideration and prayer, we’re likely to add fuel an already combustible conflict. Can people of faith disagree without being angry?
In the book of Proverbs we’re cautioned about the danger of making friends with someone characterized by anger. “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” (Proverbs 22:24-25, ESV) The Message says it this way …
“Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious—don’t get infected.” If we align with an angry man, it will be hard to find peace.
Angry words may sound appealing and call us into the heat of their passion or purpose. Have you ever been drawn to an angry person? You wouldn’t be the first. They sound confident, certain, and passionate. The energy around angry words may be mistaken for attraction. But while they may have a magnetic appeal, angry words may draw us into dark places where no peace is found.
An attraction to anger leads to the prevention of peace. It may destroy our relationships at home, at church, in our extended family, in our workplace, in our neighborhood, in our social media community, or in our nation. Allowing anger to take up residence invites destruction into relationships.
Let’s not let an attraction to anger keep us from a peaceful life.
In God’s original design for us, anger was absent and peace was present. Man’s rejection of God’s perfect plan led to current concerns like homelessness, poverty (of body and soul), evil agendas, and anger in many forms. There will be a day when peace will once again reign. God has promised that and made a way for it, starting with changing individual lives and restoring personal peace. But until then, let’s not spend time cultivating friendships and connections with angry people known for hotheaded ways.
We can find our peace in angry days.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)