Ronald Rolheiser has a chapter on Honest Anger in his book, The Fire Within.  In my opinion, this chapter speaks to a deep issue in the lives of men.  “We live and breathe within a culture and a church that are growing daily in sophistication, adultness, and criticalness,” writes Rolheiser.  “This is not always a bad thing, but it is helping  to spawn a polarization, anger, and despondency that is making it almost unfashionable to be happy.”  He then makes this insightful observation: “Much of this despondency has constellated around two centers: women’s anger and men’s grief.”  

When women face gender issues, anger usually follows, producing the image of “the angry feminist.”  As men face gender issues they tend to get sad and begin to grieve,  producing “the grieving male.”  However, Rolheiser points out that anger and grief are not that different. When love has been wounded there is opportunity for reconciliation.  Rolheiser suggests the opposite of love is not anger but hate.  Hatred breeds “frozen anger.” You become angry and hate when the soul is wounded. .

Anger and hatred in the beginning are a sure sign of love.  “The deeper the love, the deeper will be the anger and hatred if love is wounded and betrayed.”  Anger and hatred are “love’s grief.”  Most anger is a form of grief, while most grief is a form of anger. 

But Rolheiser gives this caution: “There is honest anger and there is dishonest anger, there is honest grief and there is dishonest grief.”  He lists three cautions:

  1. Anger and grief do not distort.  “Honest anger is real anger, it feels and points out what is wrong, but it doesn’t… lie about what is and what was good.  It lets the good remain good.” 
  2. Anger does not rage.  “Honest anger… seeks to build up, to bring to a new wholeness, to reconcile something that is felt as fractured or broken… Rage wants only to bring down, to break apart, to utterly destroy.  Its wound is so deep that there is no more desire for unity and reconciliation. 
  3. Honest anger has a time limit… [it] never sees itself as an end, a substitute for the lost love.” 

Andrew Comiskey believes most men live with an “ancient, deep well of grief and regret. It rumbles with the ache of unexpressed suffering.  And in our silence and isolation, the pain fuels our striving and addiction.  We thus live in the darkness of unexpressed affliction.  Rather than driving us toward relationships, the pain drives us back unto the wheel of striving.”  

It was during my midlife crisis that I could begin to admit that I had a  deep well of grief in my soul.  It was a cover for anger and resentment.  I kept it all inside, while it spilled out in relationship with those closest to me.  With my personality type, I continually found myself on the treadmill of people pleasing.  It exhausted me spiritually, so that my life became a “performance.”  Of course, as a pastor I had to be “good.”  But inside  I was grieving.

My testimony is this: I accepted my anger and resentment, learning over the years to cry out, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!” I continue to experience my own well of grief.  But I am learning: 1) to accept the reality of imperfect relationships, 2) to seek continued inner healing for my soul  and 3) to keep my heart open to love others, no matter what the cost. 

Remember, men: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).