Monday, May 14, 2018

A Small Book About a Big Problem

A Small Book About a Big Problem, Edward T. Welch   

Adding to the books produced by CCEF faculty on anger is this offering from Edward Welch, A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace.

He describes it as a slow 50-day walk through anger, so that we can dwell in it’s reality and what it does to us.
“To be human is to get angry. Look closely at any day and we can usually find anger in either actions or attitudes. Just track those pesky inconveniences – things spilled, things misplaced, traffic problems that seem devoted to making your life more difficult, and people, so many people, who are ill-mannered and unhelpful… anger is so common, almost ordinary. To be angry is to destroy. Yet ordinary does not mean innocent. In its commonness we can overlook our anger’s volatile and destructive disposition. Everyone has both been destroyed by someone’s anger and done some destroying.” (p1-2)
Each short pithy chapter is 2-3 pages, and as such it’s a primer on anger, so it can help the person who wants to address many issues surrounding anger, but doesn’t want to read extensively. Some chapters are clearly to prompt further thought, some are explicit biblical teaching, and some are challenges to your own behaviour. There was no clear order that I could determine, it meanders through topics and seems to double back to things. Yet this will work for many. I strongly prefer a clear structure, but not everyone does. And with the format used, it need to and does have continual grace, teaching and challenge scattered throughout.

My thought with books on topics like anger is that they are excellent and needed, but do people really read them? You might if you knew you had a problem with anger and needed to deal with it, which in itself would take some humility and guiding by the Holy Spirit. Yet the reality is that all of us have anger issues. We all think things should go our way, we all can tend to grumbling, and a lack of thankfulness. We all think that everyone else should fall in line with what we want.  The is part of the universal fall of man, we all want to go our own way instead of God’s.
“Grumbling is spiritual adultery…We think we are doing fairly well because we are merely grumpy and other muttering under our breath. But our grumbling is against God. It holds him in contempt. It is a way we despise him.” (p105)
So, I am all for books like this, but I suspect they don’t get into as many hands as they should. And that’s a shame because it’s very helpful and designed to be taken in small chunks, encouraging the reader to face the realities of anger, how it affects them and the people around them. It’s peppered throughout with the refreshing news of God’s grace.

I think on reflection I preferred Powlinson’s Good & Angry, but that’s because I like a more in-depth treatment. For reflective purposes though, this one may be just right for many. It could easily be incorporated into daily reading. Each chapter takes less than 5 minutes to read, but could provide food for thought and prayer for the whole day. Therefore, it’s not so much a book about anger, but a book about personally dealing with your own anger.

It’s obviously not meant to be a full extensive treatment but I did think a little more time could have been given to victims of anger. While it was addressed in Day 22, I wondered if more was needed than this. In addition, I didn’t notice the acknowledgement that some anger hides real pain, such as grief, loss, sadness, or loneliness.

There was usually a question at the end of each chapter to prompt further thought, which was a helpful place to leave people - in reflection. I would have loved to see some suggestions for prayer as well for many chapters would have naturally led to thanksgiving or confession, and actively encouraging that response would have been beneficial.

I found there were something every few days that makes me stop and really think, something that challenged me. So, it’s worth going slowly though it each day, even if some days feel less relevant or pointed than others. Sometimes the challenge might be to your marriage, many for me were about parenting, and others may find their workplace relationships to be the area where application kicks in.

This is not a book to read on how to manage the anger of others, particularly your children. Rather, this is a book that will make you deal with your own anger – be it rage, giving the cold shoulder, grumbling or complaining. Time spend in addressing the range of anger that permeates our lives is well worth it, and this book is a recommended addition to resources on the topic.

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