Anger is probably one of the favorite American emotions. Drivers honk at each other, family members shout at each other, and spouses chew each other out.
There is something wonderfully satisfying about anger. When we chew each other out, we feel that we are on moral high ground. We feel both powerful and holy.
Jesus and Anger
Yet Jesus recommended against anger: “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (3 Nephi 12: 22).
We could debate whether Jesus was angry when He cast the money changers out of the temple. I believe that there is abundant evidence that He was not. He may have been filled with holy indignation, but it was not anger. He acted rationally and directly. But, whether He was angry or not, He commands us not to be.
Science and Anger
And recent research shows that anger is bad for our hearts. Our odds of a heart attack increase substantially if we allow anger and cynicism room in our souls.
Anger is also bad for our relationships. Contrary to common belief, venting does not usually help people get past their anger. Often it intensifies the ugly feelings. Further, it is rare for our outbursts to increase trust and intimacy in valued relationships. It is much more likely to generate resentment, mistrust, and distance.
Anyone who ever struggles with anger and who has the nagging sense that it might not be making his or her life better should be interested in Anger Kills by Redford and Virginia Williams.
Redford Williams was a researcher involved in much of the Type A personality and anger research. He found that it was not the intensity of a Type A personality that damages a person’s heart; it was the hostility and cynicism. Letting ourselves believe the worst about others and feeding the flames of anger actually damages our hearts physically in addition to whatever spiritual damage it does.
Getting Past Anger
So Redford Williams and his wife Virginia have written a useful book in which they discuss the problems with anger and provide seventeen strategies for controlling it. Even for those who only occasionally let anger lead them to foolish behavior, this is a useful book.
Redford and Virginia Williams (1993). Anger Kills. New York: Times Books.