Am I allowed to be angry?
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
“Be as wise as serpents but as gentle as doves.” Matthew 10:16
Have you ever struggled to really understand what this verse means and how it can be applied to the daily grind? Recently in social psychology class, we attempted to define aggression. For example, was a parent spanking their child in aggression? Or a woman spraying mace on a potential attacker? Or someone administering the death penalty as commanded by law to another individual? We ultimately decided that it all depended on the spirit of the individual carrying out the act. Were they acting out of anger or principle? For example, the parent of the child may simply be angry and frustrated making it feel good to lay a fresh thwack on their dis-obedient descendent. Or, they may be acting on a principled style of parenting based on the euphemism: spare the rod spoil the child (though frequently I think it may be a mixture of both). Is that okay? Is it okay to commit an act that could be described as aggressive if you also have feelings of anger lingering? What does it mean to be as “gentle as a dove”?
These words came from Jesus’ mouth, but He was the same Jesus who flipped the tables of the money changers in the temple and called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Surely when He did these things He did not speak in a monotone voice, surely his manner and voice displayed the same frustration that He expressed in his actions. How is this gentleness? The Bible says “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Did you catch the first two words? “Be angry.” It doesn’t say, dismiss your anger, hold it in, try to destroy it lest it cause you to sin. It says simply “be angry.” Find ways to channel your anger that will not be classified as sin. Because we believe Jesus lived a perfect life, we must then assume that these acts He committed while in an angry state were not sin. They were statements. They were focused points where He directed his emotional energy to send a message and right the moral wrongs that He observed taking place in His society.
The Greek work for gentle is epios. It means to speak into existence the preferred order of things as according to God’s will, and this inevitably brings peace where gentleness can abound. To be gentle does not mean to always speak with your voice at a certain decibel level or to never express the passions of anger… it simply means that the actions and attitude associated with your emotions should be a furthering of God’s peace on earth.
Kelli Miller is a sophomore psychology major at Southern Adventist University, and her passions include music, writing, cooking, and thinking.