Get Angry, But Don’t Live Angry

Steve Rogers: Doctor Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry!
Bruce Banner: That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry. (The Avengers, 2012)

Always angry.

It might work for massive, green, gamma-saturated superheroes needing to give a beatdown to a giant alien ship—but for most of us normal folk it’s probably a bad idea.

Many really good people are furious right now, and for good reason. This outrage is natural and called for and deeply human. It is the appropriate initial response of working hearts to the outrageous things we’re witnessing in these days. The sickening parade of terrible continually passing in front of us, certainly merits our collective fury. We should be offended to the point of disgust and it is a redemptive thing to feel so deeply at the pain of others that we are so altered. But much like a seemingly attractive vacation spot—we might visit such fury, but we can’t live there. It is unsustainable.

Anger as a catalytic moment is often necessary, moving us from complacency or ignorance and propelling us into movement. We’ve seen the virtue of outrage in this Resistance movement over the past few months. But as a cultivated condition, anger is almost always toxic. If we sit with that rage too long and nurture it too intently, it slowly begins to pollute us, seeping into our bloodstreams and contaminating the compassionate hearts that caused us to be angry in the first place. Little by little, we become used to a posture of irritability and defiance. Gradually we can become more about the fight itself than about anything or anyone we’re fighting for: We can begin to live angry.

And the problem is, people who live angry are the very reason so many of us decent folks were outraged in the first place and are outraged now. It is those men and women who are fully marked by malice and bitterness and enmity that initially caused us to resist—this is what we’re pushing back so fiercely against. People who live angry eventually discard their humanity and default to contempt for the world. Unable to transform their profound emotion into something beautiful or life-giving, they end up only able to destroy stuff, not build it. We’ve seen this in a GOP who spent the last 8 years learning only to fight against something or someone, never to participate in thoughtful construction—and who now have nothing of value to offer.

We who feel a furious desire to defend equality and diversity and decency, need to make sure that this fury is channeled into lives that reflect these things. Our work may begin in outrage but it cannot be built or sustained on it. We have to be fierce protectors of humanity—ours, those we fight for, and yes even those we oppose. We have to guard against becomes marked only by our outrage.

Since last Fall I, like millions of people have been fully pissed off, but I don’t want to be a perpetually pissed off person. I’m totally at peace with the anger that moves me, but I don’t want that anger to define me. This is the way we will be a rival people of hope as we genuinely oppose those who broker in hatred. It is the softness of our hearts that makes us different. Our ability to care and to feel and to grieve is the antidote to the violence that so repulses us and it is what will separate us. Compassion and gentleness and decency are our true superpowers, in such dangerous days when heroically human people are so needed.

Like the television version of our hulking green friend was quoted as advising an adversary: “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry—You won’t like me when I’m angry.”

Get angry, dear friends, at all that is wrong in the world.
Be angry long enough to be moved to push hard against it.

Just don’t live angry.



56 thoughts on “Get Angry, But Don’t Live Angry

  1. A very wise post. Get angry, use it as motivation, but don’t let it define you.

    (Now, if you all will excuse me, I have to go fangirl over The Avengers. Because Scarlett Johansson. Whew! *fans self*)

    • Anonymous, I very much like what you wrote here. May I say something? There are several people who comment here as “anonymous” and as several of them choose to express themselves in unpleasant language, I don’t read anything written by people who post as anonymous. But I happen to see this as I was scrolling down.

      May I ask you as a favor and so we can get to know each other, to adopt some sort of identity that is not “anonymous?” All you have to do is type a name below the comment box, doesn’t even have to be yours, but something that is not anonymous? Thanks.

      • I am not Anonymous, but I might have an insight on why someone might choose to be anonymous. It’s probably the same reason I posted on John’s website and not Facebook. There are many people in my real life who would shun me for my political beliefs, my mother and some of my brothers included. If I’m shut out, I’ll lose all hope of influencing them down the road. Oh, I let my true self exist in real life away from my family of origin and in other places on social media but not Facebook.

        • That’s why I closed my Facebook account a long time ago, some of my “family” found my page and decided it would be fun to attack me. Even after I raised my security to the highest possible level, they would follow me to various pages and harass me, or they would harass my friends or my wife.

          It’s also why I don’t post my last name, where I live, or my wife’s name anywhere. I need to be able to maintain a certain level of privacy, as well as a separation between my online and offline life.

        • Diane Wheeler, I thought I made it clear that I understood what you wrote when I said “May I ask you as a favor and so we can get to know each other, to adopt some sort of identity that is not “anonymous?” All you have to do is type a name below the comment box, doesn’t even have to be yours, but something that is not anonymous? ”

          I would be grateful if people who post as anonymous used some sort of identifier other than “anonymous” so we can tell the participants apart.

          • I would have to second what Gloriamarie says here. It does not have to be your name. For example, you could use Electra, Snooblesnort, High Wire, Diggerdeeper, Road Hog, or any other such thing.

            Nobody on Earth will know your real name—including people on Facebook—that is unless you have some sort of weird electronic setting of your own on your WordPress or Facebook account that automatically publishes your real name on some other Internet platform or eight others when you publish in just one place. That would be a really stupid thing to do. Most people do not have that kind of unusual problem.

        • I totally understand Diane. I will not post my last name nor my current nickname for the same reason, but I will always post as “Robin” as a deeply meaningful handle here in this forum. Also the Email address will not be posted.

  2. Well said! If we live in anger, we will indeed become what we hate. Being angry is healthy and understandable, so is debating issues. But, living angry, and only lashing out not living out the behavior and principles you are fighting for is hypocrisy writ large.

  3. Ah, once again you give wise counsel. I needed this as a reminder of something I have always known. Sometimes we forget, so am so grateful that you are there to remind us. It is not easy these days, still looking for Suzy Sunshine, she shows up but not as often as I would like so am continuing to seek her out. With Gratitude, Peace and Love,

  4. Be Angry and sin NOT , passage from scripture
    God command his people to hate sin and love sinners
    Passionate about God s Love and Passionate about his coming Judgement of those who hate him and rebel against Him.
    God States very clearly in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy that He ( God ) The true God will have No other False Gods, Idols or False Forms of Worship before Him.
    Yes , God is a Jealous God and Judges Mankind according to his own heart.
    NO Exemptions
    War, Calamity , hardship, disease , pestilence are all examples of and results of Judgement.
    The rain falls on the Just , and Unjust alike.
    Be Ye angry and sin Not .
    God is Love and with a PURE , Clear Conscience preach , Teach , exhort others to live in peace with one another , respecting other s and loving others as Jesus Christ Did, and showed us to .
    So as you walk , talk , teach, tell other s remember God is a Re warder of those who love Him.

  5. Thank you, Caitlyn Anne and Kathleen, I ticked the box before I started typing.

    John’s words are wonderful and comforting. It is so true that if we let anger define us, we hurt ourselves so deeply and we become violent people in our actions, choices, language.

    What I have learned for myself is that I need to do something positive as a result of my anger. It impells me to act as best I can. My days of demonstrating and marching are over, as much as I want to demonstrate and march again as I did in the past. So I had to find new way to channel my anger. To do what I can to turn my anger into constructive, positive action>

    One way to persist in resistance is my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, where I post actions, petitions, info, actual news, evidence, facts. There’s a pinned post that I highly recommend people read. I also ask a screening question so I can keep the spammers and the trolls out. All who read this are invited.

  6. John p. — I feel better already. such good counsel. ‘… get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another just as Christ forgave us.’

    • A much more appropriate response than a lesson in God’s Judgment from the Old Testament (ref. above comment). While the Bible talks often about God’s anger, the truth of how we, the humans, should live with our human hearts and attitudes is expressly addressed by this verse.

      • They are not responding to 1) attempts by those outside their ranks to enlighten them with scripture, or, 2) verbal attacks of any kind from anyone because anyone who disagrees is already the enemy. We might as well abide by the scripture cited and keep ourselves clear minded and clean of spirit where anger, even “righteous” anger can turn to hatred and intolerance.

  7. Indeed, anger is a useful motivator over the short term, but a soul-shrinking, happiness-destroying, love-extinguishing way to live. Anger all too quickly warps the brain to become hatred for everything you’re fighting against. It is, I think, much harder to use anger and then let it go than to be angry and stay that way, but the cost of constant anger is too great to allow it to become your life.

  8. Thank you for the uplifting words. I needed that today. Most of my family and friends voted for Trump and continue to think the Republican party is doing what Christ would do. I am frustrated to no end trying to understand how they come to that conclusion. I know most of them watch Fox news and are influenced by that but I would think logic would step in sometime. I get so angry at what they say sometimes I don’t even want to be around them any more. I thank you for the reminder that living in anger will only hurt me, and will not change a thing they hear or believe, so I will let it go and be at peace in Christ.

  9. Anger goes hand in hand with ongoing postings, words and thoughts harping about what we don’t want. Doing that brings more of what we don’t want then we are perplexed why we keep feeling anger.

    The only solution is concentrating on that which we do want. When we’ve really done that, anger releases and joy, love and peace begin.

    That doesn’t mean we ignore the bad stuff, it means putting our ‘shoulder to the wheel’ in such a way that that which is good, wholesome, inclusive, socially just begins to grow, blossom and bear fruit.

    • Ellis, while I agree that concentrating on the positive is good, it actually fails to eliminate the negative.

      We have to work to stand against evil in order to bring in better stuff.

      One way to persist in resistance is my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, where I post actions, petitions, info, actual news, evidence, facts. There’s a pinned post that I highly recommend people read. I also ask a screening question so I can keep the spammers and the trolls out. All who read this are invited.

      • Sandi and Gloriamarie,
        Having followed progressive new thought and the law of attraction principles for many years I can attest that those principles do in fact bring about massive, effective and lasting positive change. Countless lives have dramatically changed for the better because they moved from poisonous thoughts to thoughts of building a better way of living.

        Much of what is posted in John’s blog by readers and sometimes by John are bitter, divisive and negative. A lot of it is people preaching to the choir – all preaching and no actionable process.
        What I’m talking about, taking negative bitter and divisive roads that have no uplifting value. We are what we think –
        that has been proved many times over. Simply look at any life that is either successful or in disarray and behind that life one can trace a direct line of thought/thinking and it’s effect on the resulting person. Whereas understanding what course of action to take, motivating people to get behind that action and creating a whole new dialog which inspires more action will create far greater change effect than just talk, especially negative talk. Talk is totally worthless without a roadmap and course of action to actually accomplish something.
        Thoughts are things, even the bible says that; whatever a man thinks so is he.

        I dare you to relinquish the negative chatter and build a platform of real action, clearly defined goals and timelines, measurable and quantifiable.

        • Ellis, “Much of what is posted in John’s blog by readers and sometimes by John are bitter, divisive and negative. A lot of it is people preaching to the choir – all preaching and no actionable process.”

          If you feel that way, why bother coming here, then?

          “I dare you to relinquish the negative chatter and build a platform of real action, clearly defined goals and timelines, measurable and quantifiable.”

          I find this challenge quite condescending, despicable, patriarchal, and patronizing in light of what I have ****already**** said to you. Evidently, you paid zero attention.

          Ellis, while I agree that concentrating on the positive is good, it actually fails to eliminate the negative.

          We have to work to stand against evil in order to bring in better stuff.

          One way to persist in resistance is my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, where I post actions, petitions, info, actual news, evidence, facts. There’s a pinned post that I highly recommend people read. I also ask a screening question so I can keep the spammers and the trolls out. All who read this are invited.

        • Ellis, here in the real world, there are indeed communes and people and places who adhere to your idea of progress, but the reality remains that whether we “dare” (and I notice you did not offer that challenge to all the other bitter, angry or caustic people here…) “to relinquish the negative chatter and build a platform of real action, clearly defined goals and timelines, measurable and quantifiable” will do nothing to change the hearts and minds against us. It never has, it never will. I contend you do not understand the medium or those who participate (or both) but either way, I am not up for unilateral disarmament on this blog and I see it get those who try absolutely nowhere.

  10. Wise and worthy advice, my friend.
    There is a huge difference between having a feeling and *living* that feeling. You see, emotions (feelings) are chemical reactions in our brains, as a response to (something). If you do not act immediately upon them, if you hold yourself still and unattached to that chemical action, it will dissipate in about 90 seconds. In other words, (something/stimulus) causes the chemical reaction; you do not have to immediately DO anything. In fact, don’t. Observe the feeling, acknowledge it but do not give it any higher priority than any other feeling or response. Don’t “own it”. It’s there, yes it is, I can name it, but I do not have to do anything at all about it or with it.
    This process is part of the Buddhist concept of “no – thing”, of having no attachment to the things that interfere with a spiritually rich life. It may be possessions, but it can also be thoughts and feelings.
    Going back to the emotional aspect, if you begin to feel (emotion) and you react in word, thought or action based on that feeling, you are sending more chemicals along the same path as the original feeling stimulus did–we’ve all known someone who could fly into a rage at seemingly small, inconsequential things…that’s a sure sign of a deep, deep groove for the anger chemicals.
    I’d even go so far as to say that we create the path of least resistance for any emotion when we allow it to own and control us, instead of the other way ’round.
    HOWEVER. Emotions have no morality assigned to them just because of the type of emotion they are. Emotions are neither right nor wrong; they are just our brain’s response to some stimuli. They exist as neither good nor bad until WE choose how to act on them.
    Emotions give us energy–mental or physical–and the ability to react to those feelings. (Remember, if you’re feeling fear, you may be about to be eaten. Start running!) The emotions AND that energy are NEITHER good nor evil. They just are–until we decide what to do with them.
    Example: Love. Love can be a beautiful, amazing thing, complete with butterflies and unicorns, little bare-bottomed cherubs flitting around and a romantic soundtrack in the background. (Ok, that’s silly.) Seriously, love can be having someone in your life who wants only the best for you; it can be the miracle of a new baby; it can be two white haired, elderly people holding hands as they sit on the porch. All good stuff. Love is good! Right?
    What about the kind of love that limits others’ actions, causes stalking behavior towards the (unknowing) object of your love? What about a love that causes hoarding of the object of that love? (Animals mostly, but “hoarding” people is not impossible.) Or the love that makes someone a killer, like John Hinkley Jr who wanted to gain the love of Jodie Foster? All bad stuff. Love is bad?
    No, love is neither good nor bad. It just is, all by its self. What we do with it…that’s another question.
    So let’s take a look at anger. “Righteous” anger, anger that has an accepted “right” to exist seems “good”, but again, we’re back to how it’s used, what the results are of feeling it. I have a friend who had been molested as a child, with no arrests, no punishment, no resolution for her. She expressed how angry she was and I told her that she needed to find something else to do with the energy that feeling was giving her, to use it for something worthwhile–or that it would end up destroying her.
    Being continuously angry takes effort, a “throwing on some more coals” sort of thing. There are absolutely times to FEEL anger and then do something about it–but we have to make that decision each time we feel angry. “Is this an appropriate response to (whatever)?”
    Being angry for a “good” reason is never a good reason to do something bad. Being angry for a “good” reason and using that energy to remedy the problem? Priceless.
    Remember, even Jesus got angry–he shouted, he cracked his whip–and he drove the money-changers out of the Temple. But he is the highest example of John P’s suggestion to “be angry, don’t LIVE angry”.
    Peace and blessings to you all.

  11. John Pavlovitz Said:

    “Get angry, dear friends, at all that is wrong in the world.
    Be angry long enough to be moved to push hard against it.
    Just don’t live angry.”

    I am doing some research on nonfundie Christians and nonfundie churches who sit still—do nothing—or say nothing. I would very much appreciate it if all you nonfundie Christian readers would go over to my blog for just a couple of minutes and read the new main post I have put up. I have solicited an answer to a couple of questions there, and I really would like to receive a whole lot of your responses—like 100 or more—to get a real feel for what you think. The safe link to my blog is as follows:

    Please feel free to pass this request on to your friends and family members and advertise it wherever you would like on-line, at your church, or wherever. John Pavlovitz took down my e-mail address, which is a matter of long-standing public knowledge, for some unexplained reason. So, you may leave your responses here because its is salient to the subject of John’s main post today. I really would like to hear from you, and I bet John Pavlovitz would too.

    • Dear Charles:

      I seriously considered using your personal email addy, but I cannot say honestly that I am silent. Big surprise or what! That said …

      I think [when I do at all] that many are silent because in a day of ubiquitous politically driven surveillance, we know that the likelihood of reprisals very real. And while we give lip service to the ‘great free land’ mantra, no one really believes it.

      US war criminal and secretary of State, Rex Tillerson just delivered a blistering indictment of Iran as ‘the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.’ He also charged it with ‘intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining US interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Ys’rael.’

      The hypocrisy of this at times barely coherent screed by former ExxonMobil CEO turned ‘face of America to the world’ attains heights of blasphemous proportion.

      In Syria, Yemen and Iraq, US imperialism is responsible for more than 1 million deaths and the displacement of tens of millions. In Yemen, the US supports a policy that has driven an entire population to the brink of starvation. The United States has laid waste to entire societies and turned much of the region into a gigantic killing field.

      Considered politically, to say such things can at any time cause one to be declared ‘politically radicalized.’ Our massive spy network does search internet fora such as JP’s blog. We know that dissent is at any time apt to be criminalized in the interests of ‘national security’ [a catch phrase meaning ‘we’ll do what we want and you had best cooperate with us]. We are silent because we fear liquidation by our own ‘beneficent’ regime.

      Theologically considered, such things identify the offending society [US in the US] with the works of the beast/whore/false prophet in John’s apocalypse. At issue are the relations between these — the beast [militarism] supporting ill-gotten wealth [Whore of Babylon] — and the arrangement affirmed by the ‘church’ [false prophet]. The beast/whore/false prophet is whatever society in any time or place, by any name, under any system of rule that does such things.

      Some are silent because they fear state reprisal. Others are silent because unwittingly or otherwise, they devote their allegiance to this anti-christ system of earthly ideology-authority-blasphemy-cohersion-extortion-injustice-oppression-propaganda as it takes shape in our time and place. So they are in apostasy from Christ. They align with the powers and principalities of this age that Jesus died and rose again to disarm. They rearm those demonic powers.

      Charles, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether this is helpful or was what you hoped to elicit. Such are my thoughts.


      • Gdd, I don’t know if you will see this as a haven’t followed the newer posts. There are some questions I never had a chance to ask you and if you mentioned the answers in your posts maybe I wasn’t understanding what you were saying. You are much more knowledgeable about this stuff.

        What do you think the end game is? The war machine – is it to make America the only game in the world like it was after World War II.

        What is the reason for purposely spreading the divide between the have and the have nots. When the wealthy make more money they either sock it away or buy luxury items, cars, boats, jewelry, or vacation or buy in other countries. It is only when the what was the middle class got money they bought the less luxury things, cars, clothes, more food, bought a house, went on vacations. Since there are more of the have nots than the haves it would seem they would help the economy grow more.

        What do they see in the future if they price themselves out of what a regular Joe can afford, such as health insurance, food, cars, etc? We know some would be happy to force wages even lower, not pay towards their employees health insurance or pension.

        They say somehow more people fighting for jobs would make employers raise wages, but we know they wouldn’t want to give up their profits so they would have to raise their prices if they paid higher wages. Big circle.

        Anyway I have been thinking about this a lot and I hope my questions are not too silly. Does your faith in God keep you from being depressed with such a bleak outlook?

    • Charles,
      I took a look at some of your website, and, speaking for myself, it is an attack approach to people who do need to be reprimanded, educated, or convinced that their both their theology (which is selected scripture) and behaviour (selected from selected scripture). I find it a most difficult behaviour to speak the truth in love. Yee Gads…you have to be kdding! It’s like spanking (beating) a child only when you are irritated – though if I had it to do over I would never spank my children – which is venting your anger and teaching them not to make mommy or daddy mad, rather than to teach them follow though of consequences and directing them to right behavior, while you are, in fact, telling yourself you are loving them. (I don’t advocate spanking anymore).
      Someone on this thread said . Anger is ” soul-shrinking, happiness-destroying, love-extinguishing”.
      True True True.
      And that is how I feel about your website. The material may be factual, but the delivery is ” soul-shrinking, happiness-destroying, love-extinguishing”.

      • Thank you for your feedback. However, you did not answer the question I asked. I asked: Why do nonfundie Christians and nonfundie churches remain silent in the face of fundie…go back and read my original question and answer that if you would please. Thanks again—and very much. All you have to do to get to my blog again is to click on my name at the top of this response.

        • What can we do? Their problem is they rely only on the Bible and have no guiding authority regarding doctrine or interpretation of Scriptures. How can we make them become Catholics?

          Otherwise, they mean well.

        • I went to your website to catch an idea of who you are and what you do. So I gave you feedback of my own research!
          Without going back to the website, you are wrong that non-fundamentalist individuals aren’t speaking up in the blogs (where else?) and a few spokesmen speaking out on the phenomenon of Trump’s Evangelical support have gotten on the news shows. However, both churches and individuals are not silent when it comes to issues, ie, immigration, civil rights, equal opportunity, etc. That is the way it should be. Organizations like Sojourners are leaders in that respect. It would not be seemly for church leaders to attack other Christians or churches directly.

  12. Dear John Pavlovitz:

    Personally, my preferred route is not anger but shedding fear and with single minded determination building a mass movement around a program that addresses the root of our many societal evils.


  13. I loved this post by J.P. I passed by the book section in the store I was shopping at and saw the title:

    “Why We March, Signs of Protest and Hope, Voices from the Woman’s March”.

    It is a book with photos of the signs made for the Women’s March held this year all across America. This, for me, is a beautiful example of constructive artistic expressive passionate anger– one that draws every kind of person together to work towards the good of all.

    — and if you buy this book all royalties will be donated to Planned Parenthood– a worthy cause.

  14. How John?? Here in South Africa, 7 women have been murdered in 7 days. Two funerals, one for a lesbian and one for a transgender man, we’re held on Saturday. Another lesbian was murdered on Sunday. It is hard to not be angry when this violence continues and the authorities ignore it.

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