The Incredible Hulk used to warn others about the consequences of his rage by saying, “Please don’t make me angry; you won’t like me when I’m angry.” Interestingly, the warning was always for other people: they wouldn’t like him angry. In truth, the character Bruce Banner (who plays the human part of the Hulk before he transforms) takes pleasure in the brute strength, power, and freedom his anger grants him. Is his temper dangerous? Certainly. Yet, with that danger comes the promise of strength—particularly over enemies.
Isn’t this true of our own battle with anger? While we realize the harm is causes it to our relationships we continue to give in due to its promise of power. In the heat of the moment, we justify it, for we feel compelled to lash out, conquer, and subdue whoever has kindled our wrath. It isn’t until the fog of our temper has cleared that we truly see the results of our outburst: the rubble of broken relationships, a tense work environment, and a cold marriage.
If you need more evidence at the destructive, yet deceptive nature of our anger, look at the present state of our nation. Violent riots, murder, and anarchy on the rise. Chicago alone has already experienced more murders than all of 2019. If you look into the faces filling the streets, there is a single, consistent emotion binding them into a sordid, unholy unity: anger. This hate-fueled anger-fest is dangerous because it feels justified. To those who give in, it doesn’t matter who gets hurt, or what cost must be paid, all is sacrificed on the altar of rage.
The justification for our anger is so insidious. It excuses its harsh, berating, malicious, loud tactics by demonizing the person who is the focus of our attack: they are evil, dangerous, deceptive, and thus deserve our wrath. Often it is personal, as our anger stems from pain, embarrassment, or guilt. Anger is also surprisingly self-righteous; we believe our superior intelligence, greater moral character, or position of authority grants us the right to lash out at others.
If this is the case, you would imagine that God would constantly lash out at humanity–yet the shocking truth is that the Lord is slow to anger (Psa. 145:8). Although he is righteously angry at unholy conduct (Psa. 7:11), he is never capricious or petty. His wrath is a judicial outpouring of his holy character, but one that is tempered by immeasurable love, grace, and mercy.
This is why James informs us that our wrath doesn’t produce the righteousness of God (Jam. 1:20): it is often short-sighted, self-justifying, mean-spirited, and unholy. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel anger and frustration with our present culture, the actions of evil men, or the direction of our country. Yet it should remind us that our anger is often misleading and destructive–and the scary part is that we often believe it is beneficial and loving. In reality, it isn’t until we see the aftermath of our temper that we realize that others aren’t the only ones affected: I don’t like me when I’m angry either.