One of my criticisms of the recent use by our federal government of the Emergencies act to deal with a large illegal and likely aggravating protest in the nation’s capital has been that it makes similar actions in the future easier. This isn’t a minor consideration, as there is likely a reason that this legislation hadn’t been previously used in the 34 years since it achieved royal assent (our least popular Prime Minister didn’t even do it during the 71-day Oka Crisis in 1990 when the protesters were armed and people had died).
The clearest problem comes from the chilling effect such heavy-handed actions have on dissent. For example, the government has stated that it may freeze bank accounts without a warrant during this time. The mere threat of that happening is likely to make many people think twice before they donate to oppose government action.
Why the sudden foray into politics on a blog about Biblical reflections on the sovereignty of God? It’s because similar dynamics can be at work in relationships, and provide a deep pitfall for the way we deal with one another. You see, friendships are often built over long periods of time, and through a lot of shared experience, and sometimes secrets. The fact is that the longest and deepest friendships often include knowledge of all the “dirt”, and it is the trust built through knowing that dirt and yet loving each other in any case that provides some of the best glue for those friendships.
But when we are angry with one another, it can be tempting to hurt the other person or manipulate them to do what you want through the use of secrets, or even by in anger just saying that one thing you should never have said. The problem is, like with the emergencies act, the effects can go far beyond the intended consequences, and can erode, or even destroy trust.
This is why the writer of proverbs gives this gem of wisdom:
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:9 (ESV)
In anger, it can be tempting to use the repetition of the things you know about your friend to hurt them, but there are consequences, sometimes greater than you can think. Some words are harder to take back than others, and some words will hurt more than the feelings of another person, and go to the heart of the trust that helps the friendship to function.
And that is yet another reason to be careful of our own anger.