Good & Angry, David Powlison
I was keen to read this as Powlison is the lecturer who ran the CCEF course I did last year. This book was as good as that course - in fact, it was the essence of the course with application to anger. Much of the material I had already covered in the lectures or readings, which is a great recommendation, because they were excellent. I was thrilled when provided with a pdf copy of this by New Growth Press, because I have high expectations of anything written by CCEF faculty, and have not yet been disappointed.
Powlison states his goal early– to enable us to more fruitfully and honestly deal with our anger. He does not define anger as simply as you might think. It does include the white-hot rage and seething that some have. It also includes long term bitterness and complaint, as well as general grumbling. He points that some things should anger us (ie injustice) but don’t. He also includes the possibility of truly righteous anger – anger that is the right response to a wrong.
Breaking this book down into four sections makes the material more manageable and logical. He also gives some excellent tips on how to read the book. This is so rarely done in books it’s worth mentioning – he talks about underlining key sections, and writing out the questions raised for you as you go along.
Section 1 deals with our experience of anger, including some good observations on the real power of anger. One chapter makes the point more clearly than ever: Chapter heading: Do you have a problem with anger? Rest of the chapter is one word: Yes.
Section 2 addresses what anger is. He deals with the key idea of anger being “I’m against that”, “That’s matters and it’s not right”. He explains what happens to the whole person during anger – the body, mind, actions and motives. He addresses that we have a capacity for just anger and a bent to bad area (thanks to creation and the fall).
“Your anger is Godlike to the degree you treasure justice and fairness and are alert to betrayal and falsehood. You anger is devil-like to the degree you play god and are petty, merciless, whiny, argumentative, willful, and unfair.” (p65-66)
Two chapters work through the idea of good anger being the “constructive displeasure of mercy” – that is, having patience, forgiveness, charity and constructive conflict. And he points us to God, who can have both anger and love consistent with each other, whereas our anger and love rarely are consistent.
Section 3 looks at how to change by showing us how we play God with our anger and how God still gives more grace to help us. He introduces 8 questions which help begin to tease out our anger, analysing motives and consequences. This leads to thinking about how God speaks to that situation, and how that changes your motives and consequences into more positive fruit. Having done this exercise with the course I did, I can speak from experience how helpful it can be when applied to an area of personal sin.
Section 4 tackles the hard cases, the major sins which lead us to say “I’ll never get over it”; the everyday angers which we pretend aren’t even there but come to define us; anger at ourselves; and anger at God.
I doubt there is anyone who can honestly say they don’t have a problem with anger in some format. Powlison seriously claims there is no-one whom this doesn’t touch. So, this book is highly recommended reading for all.