Did Jesus Need Anger Management Counseling?

I’m all for self-awareness and responsible living, but if one believed all the memes one sees today, one might think that Jesus himself needed anger management counseling, based on all the times he got angry with people in the Bible stories. The memes would have us believe that any time something gets a rise out of us, it must be because we have a burr under our own saddle that needs to be removed. That is to say, that something is wrong with us.

I observe, however, that among those who think this way, many of them get angry themselves over other people’s anger—as if it’s morally wrong and repugnant for (those other) people to get angry about anything. But do they count this anger they feel themselves as a transgression? Or do they rather feel justified in counting the anger of others as wrong, and in feeling repulsed by it?

There’s an old saying that warns against “throwing out the baby with the bath water”, and I think it comes into play here. Let me spell it out in one crazy-long sentence packed with bullet points in the middle:

If, in our quest to rid ourselves of anger that is:

  • irrational
  • vengeful
  • hateful
  • counterproductive
  • toxic
  • obsessive
  • selfish
  • etc.,

we also throw out anger that is:

  • righteous
  • reality-based
  • reasonable
  • responsible
  • honest
  • loving
  • etc.,

then we have robbed humanity of some of the most impacting goodness there is. We’ve immediately done away with a great many rebukes and corrections. We’ve done away with the deep care about a person that wants and expects him or her to do what is right and proper, and to do his or her best.

Authentic love cares about people and how they behave. And anger is an outcropping of caring deeply about things. Not all anger is righteous. And not all anger is unrighteous. But if the mere existence of anger is a sign of some manner of internal corruption or dysfunction, then God and Jesus themselves, as they are portrayed in the Bible, need some serious counseling. And I doubt very seriously that any Christians who believe the memes would be comfortable drawing such a conclusion about God and Jesus.

So, I know it may sound crazy, but maybe the memes should be reconsidered.

I think they are often used a tool for gaslighting those with righteous anger just as much as they are an aid for defending, enabling, and “justifying” people with unrighteous anger. Not all anger is the same, even though so much of the hearsay fails to differentiate between righteous and unrighteous anger.

And this is just another one of the rarely-understood facts about Jesus—that he is both kind and stern. It is a fact that many, especially among the churchers, will refuse to admit. And even if they allow it in Jesus’ case, they will push back against the idea that it could ever be righteous for any human to have such angerand this, despite Jesus’ statements that any student, fully trained, will be like his master.

I think these people want a world without conflict, which this present world is not, and will never be. How ironic, then, that anytime they see someone in emotional distress, they assume that something is wrong with how the person is thinking and feeling.

This may well be an unresolved “association” with unjust anger they have experienced (from other people) in their lives. Perhaps they fell victim to explosive, irrational, and unfair outbursts from people, and are still so affected by it that any display of anger “triggers” them into a defensive mode in which they want to attack anger itself—all anger, that is, without differentiating the righteous from the unrighteous.

Surely, there are things wrong with us. But sometimes, anger is the right response. Sometimes, that is, anger is right with us.

When you’re a kid, and they tell you what is right and what is wrong—and when you take it to heart and learn as you are told—when you set your world in order, according to the lessons they are teaching you—then anger is quite the natural response when, after all that, you see things out of order. And after much reflection, I’ve come to believe that Solomon had something of this in mind when he wrote these words:

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Solomon. Proverbs 1:18. ESV

Wisdom and knowledge have to do with understanding the proper order of things. So, naturally, the better we understand the proper order, the more aggravating/frustrating/vexing/disappointing/angering it is to see things out of order.

And there is much disorder in this world. And it’s not just in religion. The world is terrible about following the order that’s laid out in the Bible, or in a governmental constitution. We’ve even pretty terrible at managing a 4-way stop regularly without breaking the rules.

Is there something wrong with me, though, if these facts trouble me? Sure, if I get out of my car and shoot someone at the 4-way stop for breaking the rules, surely that’s “over the top”, as they say! But is something wrong with me if I get angry at seeing the sad state of driver performance day after day at the 4-way stop?

And have I committed the unpardonable sin if I should dare to draw anyone’s attention to these serious issues―or if I should actually to correct or chide someone for their misdeeds?

Well, depending on who you talk to, one might think so!

Sadly, many make it to adulthood without having experience enough righteous anger from others to understand that there is such a thing, and that it’s (actually) for their own good to be on the sharp end of such anger from time to time. They’ve made the natural mistake of thinking that just because some anger directed at them was twisted or bad (in some way or other), that all anger is similarly twisted or bad or unjust.

But if this is so, then the God and Jesus of the Bible are badand our religion has some serious problems at its very corefor they were frequently angered with humans, and pointed out their transgressions. Further, they sometimes directed humans to do the same.

So maybe we should cross-check the memes against the Bible from time to time.

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