Recently I heard a message about anger. A brief tour of some high points: people who harbor anger hurt others (particularly those closest to them) and hurt themselves; angry people are more likely to fall into sin and to miss out on good things God wants them to have; with our words we can either inspire anger or defuse it, and we can choose by an act of will to put away our own anger. It was a terrific message (although it's the kind where you don't hear that many "hallelujahs" from the congregation!), and as I thought about it that afternoon something occurred to me. The message seemed to dwell mostly on the kinds of anger you can see, the aggressive kind where you yell at someone, throw an object, throw a punch. The kind of anger that seethes until it attacks. What occurred to me was that not everybody who is harboring anger blows up.
I personally tend to express (or is it NOT express?) my anger in a passive-aggressive way. When I am angry and not dealing with it properly, my impulse isn't usually to yell or throw things... I tend to do it by leaving something where I think it may bother someone, or not putting something away, or something really silly and trivial like that. Don't get me wrong, I've been known to explode, but usually I internalize and I guess kind of let it out in petty little spurts. I doubt that my cranky little "love notes" ever are even noticed more than about one time in fifty.
But anger is anger, whether it festers on the inside or whether it explodes all over the landscape. Just because it's not the extroverted kind of anger that inspires fear and breaks bones doesn't mean it's not anger. And whether anyone but you knows about it or not, it is still anger - the Bible sometimes calls internalized anger "bitterness" - bitterness hurts the bitter person just as surely as punching a hole in the wall. And invariably, that bitterness will eventually come to light, if not by turning into the explosive kind of externalized anger, certainly by eating you from the inside until it turns into an ulcer, a heart problem, a nervous breakdown. Anger that never sees the light of day is just as dangerous as anger that comes out in a temper tantrum.
The most humbling thing, though, is that bitterness and anger are both equally sin, and either will separate us from the blessings of God. That's not a place that I want to be.