Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison. New Growth Press. 256 pages. 2016
David Powlison serves as the Executive Director of the Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF), and has decades of counseling experience. He writes that this book is not about “solving” anger problems, but to teach the reader how to more fruitfully and honestly deal with our anger. He tells us that if we are willing to enter the conversation the book will prove to be about our anger. He wants us to think about reading the book as an honest conversation about something that really matters. One goal of this book is that the reader will think more carefully about how they think when angry, so that our “inner courtroom” will grow more just.
He divides the book into four sections. The first section helps the reader ask questions and explore our particular experience of anger. The second section answers the question what is anger? The third section tackles how destructive anger is changed into something constructive. The final section looks at particular difficult cases.
He suggests that we read the book with a pen and yellow highlighter in hand. He wants us to pay close attention whenever we find ourselves thinking “But what about…?” (Or as he refers to them as BWAs). He states that the book is the product of hundreds of BWAs that he has asked about anger over many years. He tells us that if we take the book to heart, we’ll get anger right more often.
The author states that at its core anger is very simple. He states that anger expresses ‘I’m against that.’ It is an active stance we take to oppose something that we assess as both important and wrong. He states that anger expresses the energy of our reaction to something we find offensive and wish to eliminate, and ultimately anger is about displeasure. Anger is the way we react when something we think important is not the way it’s supposed to be.
He defines good anger as the constructive displeasure of mercy. There are four key aspects to the constructive displeasure of mercy. Each of these four implies active disapproval of what’s happening. But, the author writes, unlike the vast bulk of anger, each breathes helpfulness in how it goes about addressing what it sees as wrong. The four key aspects are patience, forgiveness, charity and constructive conflict. He states that we can’t “do” anger right without the constructive displeasure of mercy.
He tells us that anger is something we do with all of our heart, soul, mind, and body. We learn how to be angry in two different ways. We pick it up from others, and we develop our own style through long practice.
He refers to God as the most famous angry person in history. He writes that we can learn a great deal about ourselves and others by slowing down and taking an actual look at what is described as the “wrath of God.” He states that it is the clearest example he knows of how to get good and angry, as well as to be patient, merciful, and generous at the same time. He tells us that we can’t understand God’s love if we don’t understand His anger.
The author then tackles how we change, moving from darkness to light. He addresses how distorted humans become what they are meant to be. Here he looks at scripture passages such as James 3-4.
I found the book to be very helpful, and both practical and interactive, with several examples or case studies to illustrate the points he makes. The book is organized effectively, addressing topics such as six common reactions to the statement that we all have an anger problem, six common wavelengths within the spectrum of bad anger and four expressions of anger in which God expresses his love for his people. He provides us eight questions to help us make sense of any incident of anger, which will help you turn an anger incident into something positive. He looks at four reasons that people feel angry at themselves. The author’s final word is that anger is going somewhere. It will someday be perfected, swallowed up in joy.
50 Great Quotes from Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison
There is much of value in David Powlison’s new book Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness. I encourage you to read the entire book. Here are 50 great quotes from the book:
- It’s no surprise that when the apostle Paul lists typical sins, half his list belongs to the anger family (Galatians 5:19–21).
- The most immediate anger problem for many people is not what they do, but what someone else does to them.
- Irritability is anger on a hair trigger.
- Arguing is the disagreeable “he said, she said” of interpersonal friction.
- Bitterness expresses how anger can last a long, long time.
- Passive anger hides behind surface appearances and even beneath conscious awareness.
- Self-righteous anger enjoys the empowering sense of grievance, of getting in touch with honest emotion and expressing it freely. It feels good to let it out, and it often gets results.
- Anger always makes a value judgment. Anger is always a moral matter.
- What is anger? It’s the way we react when something we think important is not the way it’s supposed to be.
- Anger is a feeling of distress, trouble, and hatred.
- Anger is the attitude of judgment, legal condemnation, and moral displeasure. But judgment can show good judgment—and even mercy.
- Anger does things. It appears in accusatory words, sarcasm, threats, and curses. It adopts that tone of voice. Gestures and body language speak loudly: hitting the dashboard, giving a disgusted sigh, walking out of the room, raising the decibel level, rolling the eyes, scowling. You do anger with all that you are, and you do it as an inter-action.
- Anger has an object, a target.
- Anger is a central feature wherever conflict occurs: marriages, families, churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, and nations. People use anger to get what they want and to defeat other people.
- Anger is a weapon to coerce, intimidate, and manipulate others—and it is a shield to defend yourself.
- Anger happens for reasons that arise from who we are and what we want.
- Anger occurs not only in your body, emotions, thoughts, and actions. It comes from your deepest motives.
- When anger goes bad, it’s because motives operate in the godlike mode. “I want my way. I demand that you love me on my terms. I will prove that I am right at all costs.
- When anger goes right, there’s always something higher, some higher purpose or person who puts a cap on anger, who sets a limit on bitterness, who gives reasons not to whine and complain. The most high God, his higher law, his loving mercies, and his higher purposes transform anger.
- When God’s larger purposes are in control, the poisonous evil of anger is neutralized. Anger becomes a servant of goodness. The anger becomes just, and the purposes become merciful to all who will turn and trust and become conformed to his image. He changes our motives.
- Anger is the fighting emotion. Anger is the justice emotion. Anger is the deliver-the-oppressed-from-evil emotion. It stems from love for the needy. All of us come wired with a sense of justice. We can override it or pervert it. We can direct it to wholly selfish purposes.
- Our anger is natural. It is a capacity given by creation in the image of the God who is just.
- Your anger is Godlike to the degree you treasure justice and fairness and are alert to betrayal and falsehood. Your anger is devil-like to the degree you play god and are petty, merciless, whiny, argumentative, willful, and unfair.
- You learn exactly how to be angry in two different ways. You pick it up from others, and you develop your own style through long practice.
- Good anger operates as one aspect of mercy. It brings good into bad situations. It stands up for the helpless and victimized. It calls out wrongdoers, but holds out promises of forgiveness, inviting wrongdoers to new life.
- The actions and attitudes that express constructive displeasure of mercy are exactly how the Bible portrays the man Jesus in action. They also describe how a wise person acts. They describe someone who is becoming like Jesus.
- You can’t “do” anger right without the constructive displeasure of mercy.
- Constructive conflict is part of the redemption of a bad situation. It is the only merciful alternative to giving up in exhaustion, disgust, or fear.
- The constructive displeasure of mercy means the redemption of the world. It is the glory of God and the love of God. It is God reforming you into his image.
- To become slow to anger is to become like God. It is a quality that frequently describes God and frequently describes what we are meant to be.
- The things that naturally most outrage you, those things that most universally upset human beings everywhere, are the very things that the Bible labels “sin.”
- You can never really understand yourself (or God, or other people) unless you understand both sin and the wrath of God.
- The constructive displeasure of mercy makes God’s anger your friend.
- Naturally those who repent of an angry critical spirit become full of mercy.
- Anger is provoked. Anger has an occasion. Anger is about something. Anger flares up for some reason, in some specific time and place.
- Your anger reaction is not caused by the situation alone. It is caused by what you most deeply believe and most passionately cherish—right now, when you find yourself in this situation.
- Anger has consequences. It creates feedback loops, vicious circles. The Bible uses a vivid metaphor: you reap what you sow.
- Studies seem to show that angry people have a higher incidence of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
- When something is so wrong that you will never get over it, your reaction will either make you live or it will kill you. Great suffering puts a fork in the road, and you will choose. The choice is between the way of bitterness and the way of grace and mercy.
- Learning to live fruitfully in the face of great wrong will take a lifetime of going to God for mercy and help in your time of need.
- One of the effects of being marked by suffering is learning to value the future. Not all the crying or pain goes away now, but he will make all things new.
- Everyday angers are very difficult to overcome. They become habits we’re not even aware of. But habits that have become second nature can change—rarely in an instant, usually in a slow growth process in the right direction. The Lord who creates a new nature in you will stick by you.
- Jesus tells it to us straight: grumbling is a most serious sin, a capital crime, a primal offense against the God whose universe this.
- From Jesus’s point of view, all everyday disgust and negativity shares DNA with murder, after all.
- Even when self-condemnation is merciless, the Father of all mercies has mercy for people who need mercy. He is mercy. And he comes in person looking for you.
- There is something instinctive, irrational, compulsive, and virulent about anger at God.
- Anger at God is not first an emotion. It is the stance a person takes, a core commitment of the heart.
- Anger at God is wrong. It overflows with mistrust toward God. The presence of anger depends on the presence of evil.
- Wherever there is evil, you find anger. Where there is no evil, you find no anger. No possibility of anger.
- Are you being remade into the image of God? Is your anger something that you grieve, because you see how your irritations and resentments are so often reckless and self-serving? If you are being remade into his image, then you will join his battle to rid the world of wrong. You will participate in the wrath of God. If you are not being remade into his image, then you are his enemy. You will experience the wrath of God against you.