Anger and Kindness
In these days when everybody hates everybody else, anyone who is not snarling at something – or everything – is an anachronism.
That was P. G . Wodehouse, writing in 1947. It could have been written yesterday, don’t you think? I often think when I read columnists and commentators that they are simply too mean to be taken seriously. Then again, most days I get emails that are intemperate or unpleasant – these are usually from Christians. They leave one feeling pretty down, I can tell you. I have a new technique for dealing with these emails – I just delete them. But what about the snarling commentariat, the rude motorists, the snappy visitors (ask any of our staff): what got into all of us? ‘Covid and lockdown’, I hear you cry. I guess so. ‘The war’ would presumably be your retort to Wodehouse in 1947. I have always smiled at Harry William’s anecdote in ‘Some Day I’ll Find You’: writing of the importance of being kind to his tutees at Trinity, he said
[undergraduates] are too young and inexperienced to realize that when you cut people or scowl at them it generally isn’t because you disapprove of or dislike them but because your income tax demand arrived that morning.
I get angry. Sometimes very angry. I discuss it with my therapist, and we trace it back to injustices from childhood long buried away. The squash court is useful as a channel for my anger if the Associate Vicar is unavailable. But all too often whoever is nearest just might be a victim, and that means (for me if not for them) apologies, guilt, penitence, and tears – coupled to an all-too familiar feeling of being utterly unworthy. The Bible, obviously, carries an overall sense that anger is bad, and therefore sinful. Psalms and Proverbs are full of it, and biblical characters all over the place get their comeuppance for being nasty. Though even Jesus could be angry – in fact, he often was, though he himself condemned anger, and promised dire consequences for those who insulted others, or called them fools. The difference is what we sometimes call ‘righteous anger’ – the anger we feel at injustice and oppression enacted by governments and institutions, the anger we feel when cruelty, policy or neglect lead to suffering and pain. It’s that kind of anger that rightly provokes prayer, and compassion, and sometimes bold action for the sake of the Gospel.