In traditional Christian theology, wrath is considered to be one of the “seven deadly sins.” While there can definitely be compulsive and negative aspectss to wrath, this assocation with wrath as being something “sinful” has had the unfortunate effect of giving anger a bad name. Anger can actually be a virtue and a profound tool for healing and transformation. In this discussion, we will separate anger from its unhealthy cousin, wrath.
Anger, in and of itself, is simply an emotion. Anger arises within us for many seemingly unrelated reasons. We feel anger as part of the grieving process. Anger as a face of grief is simply part of the process. In many cases, anger is protecting us from the hurt of the loss. When we allow ourselves to engage the anger in a productive and healthy way, the sorrow that lies beneath it is able to emerge and we are able to shed the healing tears of loss. Embracing anger as a face of grief allows us to move through this healing process so that we can be open to the new life that lies on the other side of the loss.
Anger also arises within us when we are faced with situations, individuals and our own inner fears and attachments that seem to be standing in the way of our ability to accomplish a task or a goal. In its most basic form, anger surfaces when we feel in some way that we are being blocked or held back from reaching our highest potential. This anger is there to alert us to our own inner fears and false perceptions that are seeking to be healed and released so that we can move forward in our journey of embracing our most authentic self. Anger in this light, is a helpful tool for deeper self-awareness and presents and opportunity for healing and liberation.
Anger also arises within us when we are witness to situations of injustice. Whether the injustice is aimed at us, or is present within the world around us, anger surfaces to empower and embolden us towards action. When we harness this anger and direct it toward a non-violent approach to solving these injustices, then the anger has served its higher purpose.
Wrath, on the other hand, is the unhealthy, often violent, expression of our anger. When in our anger we act out violently toward ourselves or others, we are exercising the compulsion of wrath. Wrath can take many forms and often shows up as resentment, harbored negative thoughts, negative self-talk and shaming, seeking revenge against another or ourselves. Depression is the hidden face of wrath. When we find ourselves feeling the emotion of anger and choose to repress that anger or suppress, we are turning that anger in on ourselves which can eventually manifest as depression, paralysis and a feeling of being small and insignificant.
The invitation today is to examine our relationship with anger. How do we respond when the emotion of anger arises within us? Do we examine it closely for the fear or loss that may be hidden beneath it? Do we embrace the motivating energy of anger and allow it to work toward healing and release? Do we judge our anger and suppress it, turning it inward? How do we engage in the wrathful activities of resentment, vengence, violent reactions, etc? It is how we respond to the anger within that determines whether it is one of the “seven deadly sins” or a virtue to be embraced. Can we allow anger to be a transformative and empowering source within us, or do we allow it to destroy ourselves and others? The choice is ours.
Lauri Lumby Schmidt
Authentic Freedom Ministries