A lot of people, especially Christians, have a great deal of trouble with the fact that Jesus got angry. It’s not so difficult to say that His cleansing of the temple was “righteous indignation.” But it’s quite another thing to admit that the Son of God, the perfect man, was angry; for everybody knows that anger is a sin, right?
This misunderstanding of anger has caused many men to push their anger out of bounds in another direction—denying it, suppressing it, or pretending it isn’t there. They feel they have no other choice, because in their thinking it’s always wrong, always sinful, to be angry. But guys, suppressed anger is just as harmful to an angry man as explosive hostility and aggression are to those around an angry man.
Jesus didn’t deny or suppress His anger any more than He exploded with rage that day in the Temple. His anger was up-front and out in the open. He responded to the situation quickly, positively, and appropriately. Then He went on with His ministry—without apology, excuse, or remorse.
Men if you have the tendency to deny your anger and bury it inside yourself, please listen to me. You’re only storing up pressure for a later implosion or explosion. The implosion hurts you; the explosion hurts others. It’s a lose—lose situation. If you don’t bring your anger to the surface and deal with it, someday, somewhere, somehow it’ll express itself in an out of bounds manner.
Are traditional gender roles part of our DNA, or produced and directed by culture? The differences between men and women go far beyond anatomy, right to our very souls. Yet men share many basic needs with women, such as the need for emotional intimacy and transparency, the need to love and be loved, and the need for purpose and meaning. Beneath our cultural costumes, men and women are more alike than different.
But the cultural role we play as men affects whether and which of these needs are met. Rough-and-tumble little boys can become relationally closed and competitive men and resist appearing affectionate, gentle, kind, expressive, relational, emotional, understanding, submissive, and nurturing for fear they’ll be judged less than manly.
Here then is a source of masculine anger. Men are trying to live out the stereotypical role of being rough-and-tumble, self-sufficient, and independent, and in so doing many of their most basic needs are going unmet. Conversely, if a man opens himself to others to address those needs, he may think of himself or be thought of by others as unmanly. We’re in a double bind. And the discontentment and frustration can easily degenerate into anger.
Beneath the surface of many strong, seemingly together, male exteriors are frightened little boys who are still desperately searching for affirmation and validation as a man. If we’re going to be honest, we should admit that’s where a lot of men live today. Many of us are unsure of how to carry off the masculine role, so we hide our fears behind masks of strength because that’s what our fathers did. But when the fa’ade is threatened on the job or at home, the cornered little boy lashes out in anger.
Whether it’s due to divorce, addiction, overwork, or the widespread crisis of fathers who’ve abdicated their roles to others, many of us have, in a very real way, lost our fathers. That’s the source of a great deal of confusion, fear, and anger many of us feel.
If we’re to move forward and experience the redemptive possibilities of God in the future, we must face up to our past. As with any loss in life, a man who experiences a sense of loss in his relationship with his father must grieve. Without proper, healthy grieving the inner hurt is like an open sore’vulnerable to repeated pain and infection, and detrimental to future health.
And the greatest asset a hurting, angry man can have in this situation is a faithful, loving friend. That is, another man who’ll understand him and stand with him as he, with God’s help, rediscovers his masculinity.