Why is it so easy to be Angry?

It’s probably more accurate to ask why it is that I find it so easy to be angry; after all, I can’t really speak for other people. That said, given the sheer amounts of indignation available online these days, 24/7, I’m guessing I’m not alone in the experience.

I’d like to say that I only get angry at injustices, and thus my anger is justified. In these moments, I imagine that I’m like God; my anger is merely the way the unjust experience my passion for justice. The difficulty comes when I have to admit that I am hardly like God in the sense that He is totally good and the very ground of justice itself. There is such a thing as righteous anger, of course. I am sure that some humans experience it from time to time (as there are very real injustices in the world, and there are indeed morally praiseworthy people, at least as compared to me). Still, upon engaging in the dangerous pastime of personal reflection as I write, I’m getting less and less convinced that my anger is primarily the righteous kind.

That’s not to say that some of the things that make me mad shouldn’t make me mad rather I’m recognizing that there seems to be something going on in my own heart when I get angry that is honestly unjust even as I get angry at things that upon sober reflection are actually real injustices. The existence of injustice may justify some forms of anger against it, but that doesn’t mean that all anger at injustice is a good and noble thing.

The Apostle Paul seems to thread this needle in his letter to the Ephesians:

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

Ephesians 4:25–27 (ESV)

It is important to speak truth to power, and it is a good thing to bring a correction to those who need it (and the wise will be thankful for the correction). Still, Paul notes that while anger may be a natural response to real injustice, anger has the temptation to sin within it. Ironically, this means that I can’t tell if my anger is justified by merely looking at the external reason I am angry, but instead by looking at the motivations I have in my own heart. Am I seeking the good of others, that they might be strengthened and corrected to walk in the light of God with me, or am I angry because I want to see myself as morally superior to the person I’m angry with?

The command to not let the sun go down on my anger is instructive. Just anger will be short-lived because it is too easy to get self-righteous and bitter by holding onto anger longer. Just anger will be tempted by mourning over the damage of the injustice, care for the people involved, and a memory of how much we have been forgiven by God, and the anger will leave eventually because a Christian will leave room for the wrath of God (who is only ever justly angry), and none of us can ever be truly justified outside of Him.

I often find it easy to be angry because I want the justified feeling the anger gives me. Ironically, it is what makes anger easy that also makes it dangerous.