Anger and Our Desires
We are minding our own business, perfectly content. Then someone comes along and makes us angry. We were not angry before; we became angry after. If the other person had acted differently, we would not have become angry. The logic is airtight.
But this kind of thinking creates a delusion.
Anger is not something that comes upon us when an offense is committed. Anger is already in us. In its embryonic form, we call it desire. We desire power, pleasure, peace, comfort, love, respect – the list is endless. Then something stands between us and that desire. We want something and we aren’t getting it. So anger is in us. It just takes the right occasion to bring it out.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions [your desires] are at war within you? (James 4:1)
Anger comes from within, and the stuff is rancid. These “passions” that are “at war” are your selfish desires that serve you and no one else, not even God. When you are angry, it is because you are angry. This is the hardest thing to learn about anger. You are the problem.
When we think about it, it makes sense. Anger comes from our thwarted desires. Those desires can start out just fine. We all have desires, hundreds of them. They range from the desire for a good relationship to a desire to lose ten pounds. James is not against all desires. Instead, he is teaching us to recognize when our desires get too big. It is one thing to desire love. It is something very different to need love, to say you have a right to it, or to demand it. When this happens, desires become selfish desires, something we think we deserve – and don’t get between me and what I deserve. Quarrels and fights are sure to follow.
Do you desire respect? Absolutely. Everybody does.
But do you need respect? Do you have a right to it? Is it okay to demand it? Respect feels essential to life, but it is not. Instead, desire has now become selfish desire. In turn, love wanes, and anger and despair take turns at the wheel that drives your emotions.
What desire has become a selfish desire, a need, or a demand for you?
This was taken from Edward Welch’s book A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace.