The Hebrew word for anger literally means to "blow out your nostrils" or to "smoke." That's apropos, for we all know what it is like to get that fire burning and boiling on the inside, only to have it explode out the chimney of our mouths, minds, and fists. Truly, few things have the incendiary power of anger let off the leash. How much pain has anger caused each of us? How many divorces, wars, irreconcilable differences, failed business partnerships, murders, errant texts and emails have been the result of primal, fully vented rage?
Now, is there such a thing as justifiable anger? Absolutely. But genuine "righteous indignation" is a rarity. The anger that most often consumes us is the anger of offense. We feel insulted, disrespected, or that our rights have somehow been dishonored. Our rage is self-centered, the result of others not doing what we want or expect them to do.
I have a hunch that most of our anger stems from a lack of maturity. See, we move from childhood to adolescence and adulthood when we realize the world does not revolve around us. Its no wonder the teenage years are full of such rage and angst. In addition to puberty, galloping hormones, changing bodies and changing family relationships, there is this social coming of age that informs us we are not the center of the universe. Some of us have had our growth stunted at precisely this stage. We are stuck in an adolescent state of immaturity and perpetual offense. We want everything and everybody to orbit around our shining sun, to do and behave as we demand. Frankly, this is a formula for frustration, for it demands of others and the world what cannot be given.
So how do we calm the burning fire within us? Well, we can control everything and everybody around us, forcing them to comply with our will (Let me know how that works out for you), or we can grow up. Francois de Fenelon said it simply: "The moment you stop wanting everything your way, you will be mature. Until then, your life will be full of trouble and agitation." We don't have to live with this kind of anger. We can let go of our pride and self-centeredness, and release our grip on our always defended rights. We can learn to let go, and thus, learn to grow up.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated faith columnist, speaker, and author. His books include "Leaving Religion, Following Jesus" and "The Jesus Tribe." Visit him at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.