Tag Archives: overcome evil with good

Jan 18 – Repost: Anger Does Its Work

Below is today’s Daily Meditation from Richard Rohr‘s Center for Action and Contemplation. It highlights a teaching from Brian McLaren on the positive gift and use of anger. See https://cac.org/daily-meditations/ for more information on this valuable resource.

Anger Does Its Work

Prophets are often known for their anger against injustice. CAC teacher Brian McLaren makes a connection between anger and love:  

I think about things I love … birds, trees, wetlands, forested mountains, coral reefs, my grandchildren … and I see the bulldozers and smokestacks and tanks on the horizon.  

And so, because I love, I am angry. Really angry.  

And if you’re not angry, I think you should check your pulse, because if your heart beats in love for something, someone, anything … you’ll be angry when it’s harmed or threatened.  

To paraphrase René Descartes (1596–1650): I love; therefore, I’m angry. […]

Anger makes most sense to me through an analogy of pain. What pain is to my body, anger is to my soul, psyche, or inner self. When I put my hand on a hot stove, physical pain reflexes make me react quickly, to address with all due urgency whatever is damaging my fragile tissues. Physical pain must be strong enough to prompt me to action, immediate action, or I will be harmed, even killed.  

Similarly, when I or someone I love is in the company of insult, injustice, injury, degradation, or threat, anger awakens. It tells me to change my posture or position; it demands I address the threat.

McClaren shares scriptural passages that urge us not to react in anger, and describes how contemplative practice can direct our anger into loving action:  

Don’t be overcome with evil. Overcome evil with good. (See Romans 12:21).  

When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek. (See Luke 6:29).  

Do not return evil for evil to anyone. (See Romans 12:17).  

Bless those who persecute you. Bless, and do not curse. (See Romans 12:14).  

In each case, we’re given alternatives to our natural reactions, alternatives that break us out of fight/flight/freeze, mirroring, and judging. In the split second when we take that long, deep breath, we might breathe out a prayer: “Guide me, Spirit of God!” We might pause to hear if the Spirit inspires us with some non-reactive, non-reflexive response. […]

Anger does its work. It prompts us to action, for better or worse. With time and practice, we can let the reflexive reactions of fight/flight/freeze, mirroring, and judging pass by like unwanted items on a conveyor belt. Also, with practice, we can make space for creative actions to be prompted by our anger … actions that are in tune with the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22) … actions that overcome evil with good and bring healing instead of hate.  

So, yes, you bet I’m angry. It’s a source of my creativity. It’s a vaccination against apathy and complacency. It’s a gift that can be abused—or wisely used. Yes, it’s a temptation, but it’s also a resource and an opportunity, as unavoidable and necessary as pain. It’s part of the gift of being human and being alive.

Brian D. McLaren, “Anger, Contemplation, and Action,” Oneing 6, no. 1, Anger (Spring 2018): 84, 85, 89, 90. Available in print and PDF download.

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