A man owned a sports car, which he kept meticulously clean. It was parked in his stone driveway. Neighborhood youth often played soccer and rode bikes nearby and sometimes small stones would fly in the direction of his prized vehicle. This was a constant source of irritation to him. Several times he would charge out of his house, erupting in rage and yell at the kids for playing too closely. He was not being threatened, but his beloved sports car was at risk.
We become angry when something we value is threatened. Our anger is proportional to how deeply we desire the object or identify with its meaning. Our social status and reputation are highly important to us. Perhaps it is the honor of a position we cherish and will fight to defend. The group to which we belong seems vital to our self-worth, and we feel angry when someone challenges or attacks it. Just consider the many political or religious fights that occur.
If we anticipate that something of value could be harmed or taken away, the fight/flight biochemical processes are triggered in anger arousal. We can express strong aggression defending possessions and “protecting our rights”. We feel justified in expressing hostility.
Contrast our reactions with the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus. Jesus did not defend his rights. He allowed them to falsely accuse him and remained silent. He did not retaliate in any form. He was not anxious about having or losing material goods. He did not fight over possessions. He instructed his followers with these words:
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Later, Jesus advises,
“Do not worry about your life.” (Luke 12:22)
When we identify too strongly with social or religious status, reputation and possessions, we are vulnerable to anger and doing wrong to others. Let us be reminded of wisdom from Apostle James:
“For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20)