The Blessing of Anger

cropped snakeBy Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at

It’s so easy to think of pleasant, lovely things as spiritual. But, what is the holiness of anger? What about jealousy, frustration, being curt? We all get there, we all experience that snap and realize we are in that painful, acidic place. So what is the purpose?

It can certainly be a red flag that we’ve got some work to do in an area. Is it a Holy nudge to work on the real issue at hand somewhere beyond the justifications?

Someone may have truly done something disrespectful or unkind to us, but what is our response? What is our part in the tension between humans? What is there to grow from in this fecund arena called relationship?

What if we are the brutish one? What is Spirit showing us?

I was talking with a friend the other day and they asked me to do something I really didn’t want to do. It wasn’t immoral or painful or anything, but I just really (really, really) didn’t want to do it. So, I said no. I need to actually mark that on the calendar, because that is an unusual event. I’m usually on the self-sacrificial end of the spectrum. The person “mentioned” something about me being selfish. I had a trigger response (body to mouth, no head) and said, “Yes, maybe I’m being selfish, but what I know is that I’m establishing a boundary.” I was angry at being called selfish, but what I realized was that the gift in this was that the anger helped me stand firm in my nascent skill of standing up for myself in this new way.

Hard emotions are not always pretty or clear, but perhaps if we remember that they can be a guidepost or a flag that says, “Pay attention,” we can not only get over that hump, but maybe even dissolve it all together. These too are gifts, reminders that God is with us here too if we are just open to it.

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10 years ago

Thanks for this reminder. It was very timely.

Bryan Berghoef
10 years ago

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10 years ago

I am 66 and have been living the contemplative journey for 30 years now. The longer I journey, the more I value negative and unpleasant emotions — and even experiences. This is because the Lord has shown me that these are growing-up times with Him and are therefore of immense value to our maturity in Him. The ONE requirement, though, is that we consciously invite Him into these unpleasant times!

10 years ago

So true!! Glad you had the courage to stand up! I know for years I would not, then build a resentment against the person and justify it by saying “Well Jesus was meek and mild so I should be too” but really I was just too afraid to stand up and set a healthy boundary. Thanks for the reminder?


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