For a clearer picture of the potentially devastating kind of blindness we’d like to consider as we continue our series, let’s talk about tools for a minute. I’ve always been intrigued with tools. In my early years on a little family farm, I watched with fascination as my grandpa worked with them. He had all kinds of hand tools, hammers, saws, wrenches, pliers, shovels, woodworking instruments, and a variety of devices hanging on the barn wall that I never really saw him use.
Of all the tools around the barn and the house, knives were the most appealing to me because they could be used for so many different tasks. You could cut a piece of bailing twine in the barn, or carve up a chicken in the kitchen. Ma (Grandma) could also cut off a tree branch with one if she needed a switch to assist with behavioral management . . . , but we won’t elaborate on that.
Not Just a Tool ~
Then as I got a little older, there was a TV series about Jim Bowie, after whom the famed “Bowie Knife” was named. He carried the biggest knife I had ever seen, and he made it clear that a knife was not just a tool. His knife was also a weapon. Every week, Jim Bowie showed that a knife could be used to defend yourself against an attacker. They could be used offensively or defensively in hand-to-hand combat or thrown from a distance. Either way, the proper use of knives was not to be taken lightly.
How we handle a knife or how we respond to someone who might be holding one is important. Our response in either situation has everything to do with what we, or they, intend to do with it. We wouldn’t want to be in a situation where everyone had a knife and at the slightest provocation, would start throwing them. And what if everyone in that chaotic picture was also blindfolded? We wouldn’t want to even imagine a situation so insanely destructive, but let’s make an adjustment in that picture and use it to redirect our thinking. Consider another familiar device that can either be a beneficial tool or wielded as a weapon with lethal potential. Let’s replace knives in this picture with our capacity to experience and express anger. There’s more than one kind of invisible enemy waiting to invade our lives. The purveyors of outrage are stalking us every day.
Rage Reigns ~
I can’t recall any extended time in my life when the country has been so plagued by anger. Whether it’s valid or not, anger is the most prominent emotion being seen, heard, and felt today. We have become the culture of both real and pretended wrath against almost everything. Of all the emotions expressed on social media platforms, anger is almost certainly the most prevalent and the most intense. News items selected for coverage on every major network seem to be chosen for their capacity to incite anger in some group, class, race, gender, social demographic, or religious affiliation. Media elites and celebrities whine about division while throwing out inflammatory accusations and scandalous comments about those they don’t like.
God doesn’t expect us ‘not’ to be angry. Instead, He admonishes us not to use it as permission to engage in sinful behavior and thus grant the enemy easy access into our lives.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:25-27 (NKJV)
Anger under control is acceptable, but giving vent to uncontrolled personal rage is not (Ephesians 4:31). That’s where the issue of blindness comes in. We’ve seen anger used to goad people into behaviors they normally wouldn’t do, and widespread death and destruction have resulted. Unleashing rage is not the same thing as throwing a knife blindfolded in a room full of people, but it can be just as lethal and we’re seeing blind rage wreak havoc in this culture every day.
An Underlying Principle at Work ~
There’s a disturbing psychological principle behind much of the blind rage we’re seeing. A researcher named Sophia Moskalensko refers to it as “Pluralistic Ignorance” and describes it like this:
Pluralistic ignorance is a situation where members of a group may privately reject an idea, but they believe most of the other members of the group believe that idea, so they decide to accept it. Since our social media networks are likely to consist of people we tend to agree with, we feel compelled to be angry when we see all of them angry about something.
“When we’re online and we encounter some piece of political theater…we see people all outraged about it, and they’re using expletives and they’re using explosive metaphors, we’re thinking, ‘Wow, everybody is feeling this way about this,’” says Moskalensko. “Over time people shift their opinions to more closely resemble what they feel is the social norm.”
There’s overwhelming evidence that rage can be manufactured and that anger is more contagious than any virus. This current culture is working overtime to turn pluralistic ignorance and fear of rejection into an acceptance of ridiculous ideas. The result is blind rage–people convinced that they’re supposed to be infuriated because everybody else is. Their rage may not be honest, but the death and destruction that it creates is very real.
God created our capacity for anger, and He intended it to be a beneficial tool. Anger works in our bodies and minds to activate mental and emotional resources. It can generate physical energy and sharpen our mind’s ability to focus. Anger can manifest itself as righteous indignation and intensify positive spiritual and emotional commitments. It can overcome fear and stimulate courageous behavior. But anger can also intimidate, manipulate, demean, and destroy. Personal rage can be a force that leaves deep and lasting wounds in its wake. To throw it around blindly is not only dangerous, it’s cruel.
Take the Blinders Off ~
When God said, do not let the sun go down on your wrath, there’s more involved than an admonition to get things settled before we go to bed. When the sun goes down, it gets dark. Perhaps God is directing us to deal with our anger in the light and not to express it blindly. There is much that needs to be done to re-establish justice and righteousness in this land, and we need the energy, creativity, courage, and perseverance that righteous anger can help sustain, but we also need to take the blinders off. We need to shed the vindictive spirit, the personal prejudices, and the selfish motives that can obscure the righteous objective that God wants our anger to accomplish. When confronted with evil that stirs our anger, instead of impulsive, explosive, indiscriminate, and destructive reactions guided by pluralistic ignorance, commit it to the Spirit of God and look for ways to use the energy it provides as a tool and not a weapon. Paul has a simple, but profoundly powerful suggestion:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NKJV)
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly to this article through Twitter.
“God doesn’t expect us ‘not’ to be angry. Instead, He admonishes us not to use it as permission to engage in sinful behavior and thus grant the enemy easy access into our lives.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“There’s overwhelming evidence that rage can be manufactured and that anger is more contagious than any virus. Our current culture is working overtime to turn pluralistic ignorance and fear of rejection into acceptance of ridiculous ideas.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“Anger can manifest itself as righteous indignation and intensify positive spiritual and emotional commitments. It can overcome fear and stimulate courageous behavior. But anger can also intimidate, manipulate, demean, and destroy.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“Perhaps God is directing us to deal with our anger in the light, and to shed the vindictive spirit, personal prejudices, and selfish motives that obscure the righteous objective that God wants our anger to accomplish.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“When confronted with evil that stirs our anger, commit it to the Spirit of God and look for ways to use the energy it provides as a tool and not a weapon.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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© 2020 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
I love how you’ve clarified here, Ron, that anger can be a powerful tool for positive change when we remove the blinders, and turn our feelings over to God. Only He can help us redirect that anger to actually do something good and necessary.
Thanks, Martha. Once again, you’ve added an encouraging affirmation and displayed that your commitment to Jesus Christ isn’t just a superficial facade. A faithful stand like yours is more powerful than many may think, and I rejoice in getting to see these glimpses of it. May God bless you and use you as you continue to be a light in these dark times.
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Such a timely message. Pluralistic ignorance seems to be like the Emperor’s New Clothes. How sad when people turn toward other people, blindly asking, “What am I supposed to feel?” Or “What am I supposed to think about this?” Without a thorough knowledge of the Word of God, we are at the mercy of whichever way the wind blows.
Thanks so much, Dottie. Your comment about the Emperor’s New Clothes is spot on, and the analogy adds another enlightening perspective. It’s encouraging to hear from you and to know that you have the courage to not only recognize truth, but to point it out whether the crowd likes it or not. May God bless you as you continue to stand for Him.
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Well said my sage friend. I’ve oft struggled with anger in this life; and ask God to continually “guard my mouth” so I don’t act upon it as much as I want to. For some of us, our fuse burns much too quickly. The key though, as you point out, is found in Ephesians. We won’t always prevent our anger from being displayed, as I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to be angry and not sin (i.e. display a righteous anger as Christ did in the temple), but one thing I can do. I can give my anger to God each night before I slumber. In fact, I must. On those rare nights when I carry worldly anger into my sleep, I find myself much more restless. For me, the key is accepting I will get angry, but when I do I must confess it, and ask God’s forgiveness. In doing so, it releases me from anger’s grip. Great insights sir. God’s blessings to you and your Ms. Diane. And yes, I hugged my calves for you this week. Well, at least patted their heads and scratched their chins. 🙂
Thanks, J.D.– as I mentioned, I can’t recall a time when I’ve been surrounded by by so much anger inducing stuff. Being confronted with information that is blatantly untrue and obviously manipulative always lights my fuse and I’ve never seen so many outright lies being thrown about as we’re seeing now. Always finding some positive way to channel that emotional energy would be great, but so would having the hair I’ve lost grow back. We can’t keep sudden and unexpected events from triggering intense anger without warning and when that happens, I’m so grateful that self-control is not totally up to me. God made it one of those marvelous identifying characteristics of His Spirit. Sometimes, it’s the “fruit” of His Spirit and not my own capacity for restraint that steps in to rescue me. Once again, your personal insights and transparency are refreshing and encouraging. May God bless The Cross Dubya and all the ministries that live and grow there.
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