Anger and Disgust

  • Anger and Disgust
  • Proverbs 29:11 and Ephesians 4:26
  • Bill Couch
  • January 17, 2016
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1-17-16 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

 

The movie “Inside Out” tracks a major transition in the life of eleven year old girl named Riley. She experienced a very stable world full of joy in Minnesota: friends, hockey, loving parents, fun. Then her family moved to San Francisco and her world turned upside down. We are given a glimpse inside Riley’s head as she navigates through this transition. In “headquarters” her emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, fear and anger vie for the control board—which emotion is going to be dominant at any given moment. As Riley encounters unfamiliar and challenging situations, two of her emotions joy and sadness get lost in long term memory. She begins to lose or reinterpret some of the core memories of her life that have shaped her personality. She loses her former identity. She no longer knows who she is. She is becoming an adolescent and needs a new identity. How the lost emotions find their way back to headquarters is the primary plot of the movie. In the process Riley discovers the value of all her emotions and develops a new identity.

Each week we are looking at the different emotions Riley experiences and what we can learn about how to deal with our emotions. We have looked at joy and fear. Today we explore the powerful emotions of anger and disgust. Next week we conclude exploring the relationship between joy and sadness. Let’s look at a couple of passages that help us learn to deal with our anger.

 

11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11

26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

All our emotions are God given. They are a part of what it means to be human and created in the image of God. Emotions are given to us by God for a purpose. Like all of God’s gifts, they can be misused. We should not be afraid of our emotions—deny them or repress them. Nor should we allow them to rule our lives. We should be aware of them and the value of each emotion that we feel. They enable us to experience life at its fullest. Riley learns that she needs the full range of her emotions: joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. Life would be awfully bland without our emotions.

Jesus felt the full range of emotions. He experienced joy. Jesus sent 70 of his followers throughout the towns in Galilee to spread the message of his love. When they returned, Jesus listened to the enthusiasm with which they shared the transformation they saw in people’s lives as they received the good news.  One of the greatest joys of a leader is to see his followers take ownership of a vision and live it out. Luke tells us that Jesus “was full of joy through the Holy Spirit”. (Luke 10:21) Jesus experienced sadness when he saw people weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Jesus experienced fear of physical torture, a painful death by crucifixion and the spiritual suffering of absorbing the sins of the world on the cross. He cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to let the cup of suffering pass from him. (Matthew 6:39) Jesus experienced disgust at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees when he declared they were like white-washed tombs, beautiful on the outside but on the inside they were full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27) Jesus experienced anger at the money changers in the Temple who were cheating people and violating the purpose of the Temple for worship and prayer. In anger, he overturned their tables and drove them out of the Temple. (Mark 11:15-17)

Jesus felt the full range of emotions as we do. He was aware of his emotions and demonstrated how to express them in a healthy way.

Riley also experienced the full range of emotions and sometimes expressed them inappropriately. Sometimes her anger and disgust spewed all over her parents. She lost joy and sadness—symbolism that she repressed or that she buried. Next week we will explore the connection between joy and sadness.

Let’s look at disgust. What is it? Disgust alerts us that we are in the presence of something distasteful that repels us, something we need to avoid.  Riley feels disgust at broccoli pizza. She feels disgust at the smell and sight of a dead mouse. She also feels disgust when her parents show up at her hockey game with their faces painted in her team colors. She walks away in disgust and avoids being seen with them.

The word disgust is used a limited number of times in the Bible. One incident is recorded in Genesis 27. Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Esau, had married two Hittite women. His parents wanted him to marry a good Jewish girl. But there were no eligible Jewish girls in the neighborhood.  Esau saw a couple of good-looking Hittite women and married them. Apparently their customs were repulsive to Rebekah and she told her husband that they needed to send their other son Jacob back to the home of their clan so he could find a nice Jewish girl. She blurted out:

“I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” Genesis 27:46

 

Obviously she was a bit dramatic with her disgust—it would be “the death of her” if Jacob married a Hittite!

While the term disgust is not used of Jesus’ feelings toward the Pharisees, it is clear that is what he was feeling. He did not mince his words, but they were intended to reveal to the Pharisees their hardness of heart. The only way to penetrate their shell of self-righteousness and open them to the possibility of repentance and transformation was with straight talk. Jesus could do this because “he knew what they were thinking in their hearts.” (Mark 2:8). We do not have that insight as to what is in another person’s heart. We do not know their motives. So we have to be very careful about delivering straight talk when we feel disgusted!

What about anger? What is it? Each week Larry Walker writes a devotional for our music ministry based upon the worship theme of the week. I want to read a portion of it:

Anger is a real emotion with a wide range of intensity, from mild irritation and frustration to rage. It is a reaction to a perceived threat to ourselves, our loved ones, our property, our self-image, or some part of our identity. Anger requires special attention according to the author of Proverbs. There are negative consequences emotionally, spiritually, and physically for us to either explode at the drop of a hat, or to keep our anger suppressed and bottled up.

 

That is a very concise explanation of anger and its potential consequences! I had written paragraphs to explain what Larry said in a few words. So I deleted my explanation and inserted Larry’s. You can thank him for shortening my sermon!

What is your usual way of handling anger? Do you explode or keep it bottled up? Either way is unhealthy and creates problems. When we explode we hurt those around us and inflict damage in our relationships that is difficult to overcome. When we bottle it up, it seeps out as resentment or passive aggressive behaviors—which are as damaging to relationships as are temper explosions.

Anger is one of the most challenging emotions for me to deal with. I grew up in a home where expressing anger in any form was not allowed. So I learned early to stuff my anger and I learned the lesson too well. That is still how I usually handle it. But I can only repress it so long. Over time it builds up and then I explode way out of proportion over some minor thing that just happened. Just last week I reverted to my childhood ways. Margaret could sense by the vibrations she was feeling from me that I was angry about something and said, “OK. What are you mad about?” I had not even let myself acknowledge my anger at that point. I’m an analytical type personality and so I usually say that I’m “frustrated” rather than “angry”. Frustration is a much more “acceptable” emotion than anger! I also think that I should be able to process my anger internally and not express it—which does not work—it is still down there if it does not get expressed. So I had to stop a minute and ask “what am I angry about?” Without Margaret’s intervention and question I would have stuffed my anger—again.

Anger is a God given emotion. It serves a purpose. Notice that neither of our scriptures this morning said that we should not feel anger. Instead they talk about how to handle and express our anger in a healthy way: “11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11

26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

 

These scriptures affirm that we need to deal with anger immediately rather than stuffing it—“don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” And we need to control our anger rather than allowing it to control us—blowing our top and spewing out fire and burning everyone around us–as “anger” does in the movie.

So how do we deal with anger? The first step is to be aware that we are angry. Allow ourselves to feel it and name it. “I’m angry.” At that point we face a decision. Will I let anger control me by stuffing it or spewing it? Or will I take control of the anger?

In order to gain control, we need to rock back and breathe. Our blood pressure is rising, our heart rate increasing, we are breathing rapidly and shallowly. We need to slow everything down. Literally taking a few deep breaths will put a comma in what is happening and give us an opportunity to break an unhealthy pattern.

We asked some of our youth to give us a demonstration of how this works:

VIDEO: Youth Anger Video

When we acknowledge our anger, we need to say, “Give me a minute,” and rock back and breathe. We may need to leave the room and then come back. It is okay to say, “I can’t talk about his right now. I need to figure out what is going on inside of me. I will be back.” This is where we need to respect each other’s need to listen to our emotions.

Then we ask ourselves. What am I really angry about? What has been violated? Is it my self-image? My self-worth? Am I feeling rejected or hurt? What needs to be protected? What needs to be restored? What is the message of my anger? Answer those questions without blaming or lashing out.

How can I express the source of my anger and ask for what needs to be restored. “I felt angry because I felt that you did not respect me when you laughed at me about what I said. I felt stupid and rejected. I need you to not make fun of things that I say. I need you to help me understand without a condescending tone.”

Channeling our anger in a positive way helps us to get our needs met. In the movie “Inside Out,” they have a great visual of what can happen when anger is channeled in a positive way.

VIDEO: Disgust fires up Anger

            When we let anger take control, it is like banging our head against a wall. The challenge is to harness the energy associated with anger and figure out ways to work around the obstacle rather than banging our head against it. Now I’m not suggesting that “Disgust’s” way of inflaming the anger is helpful. But the point is that anger is a good thing when channeled for constructive purposes.

Jesus channeled his anger for constructive purposes. At the temple he became angry when he saw that the purpose and integrity of his Father’s house was being violated by the money changers who were cheating the worshippers in the one place where they should feel safe. He took positive action to clear out the temple from the abusers and restore it to a place of safety and worship.

When you feel anger: acknowledge it, rock back and breathe, ask, “What is the message?” and how can I express it in such a way to protect and restore what is needed for myself or others?

Anger is a God-given messenger. We need to learn to listen to it and respond in ways that restore rather than damage our relationships.