I am reading a fabulous book by Dallas Willard called The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship. I have been pondering this quote for several days:
In the simplest of terms, the cross means not doing or getting what one wants. And of course, from the merely human viewpoint, getting what one wants is everything. Anger is primarily a response to frustration of will, and it makes no difference, to the broken soul, if what is willed is something perfectly trivial.”
~ Dallas Willard
This quote helped me see the Biblical passage about denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus in a new light. Jesus said this is required of his disciples, and after pondering this passage from Willard’s book for a while, it struck me that anger comes from not getting what I want.
While that was sort of a “Duh!” moment for me, I had never really looked at anger in those terms. So, I thought about various situations in which I expressed anger, and the common denominator was that I didn’t get what I wanted. This applied to very serious issues, such as not getting the safe childhood I wanted because of abuse, to the trivial, such as when my dog ate my son’s peanut butter sandwich this morning and I had to make him a new one for school — I want a dog who is better behaved. While my anger reaction has different levels of intensity, the common denominator is that not getting what I want was the trigger for the anger.
I previously shared that I became angry when I got sick last month. Why? Because didn’t get what I want (a healthy body). Since then, I have been contemplating what I could do differently to either avoid getting angry or have a specific plan to channel the anger constructively.
Jesus promised to give us his joy and that our joy would be complete. Whenever I am angry, I displace that joy, rendering my joy incomplete. Up until this point, I have simply accepted that anger is an emotion that I need to ride out. Now, I’m pondering whether anger might instead be a choice. And if anger is a choice, then I have the ability to “unchoose” it. But how?
This series will explain what I have learned and am continuing to learn. I am hoping that the next time I have a bad cold or am tempted to exchange my joy for anger, I will have the tools I need to make a different choice.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking angry and shaded in red. Courtesy Bitmoji.]