mindful of anger
Many access anger too quickly, and others try to suppress or avoid the feeling altogether. For some it has become an ‘Angry Bird’ icon in their minds which is too easily pressed and accessed. They need to slow down the process of thoughts and feelings that make up that hot button. Others need to face their anger and not hide from it.
Jesus recognizes that anger might stream inside us but says that it can be transformed and that we shouldn’t direct it on to others(Matthew 5:21). If we are slapped round the face our automatic response is to get angry. By telling us to turn the other cheek Jesus is challenging our automatic response(Matthew 5:39). In others words we need to be mindful of our anger.
Jesus reveals himself through his words to be the first neuroscientist (not surprisingly). In their book How God Changes Your Brain, leading neuroscientists Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman explain how anger is humanity’s greatest enemy. When we get angry the rational, social and compassionate parts of our brain close down…meaning no communication is possible.
John Cassian a fourth century monk says anger is a ‘deadly poison…that must be totally uprooted.’ Some researchers believe that anger is a coronary-prone behaviour that damages our bodies. But it’s very useful isn’t it for getting our own way…
I was very encouraged last night as I led a seminar at church on the latest neuroscientific evidence for how God changes our brain for the better through contemplative/mindful practices. We had over 30 people, with folk from churches, neighbours and friends. The discussion was really helpful, especially as people shared their insights about anger.