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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Owl’s Well That Ends Well”
Have you ever felt “happy” to be angry at someone or something?
Americans are in a funny situation in the modern world. We’ve gotten rid of a lot of problems such as worrying about famine, wild animals, or sudden environmental disaster ruining us (at least, most of us have). Yet we seem to be “angrier” than ever. We show it everywhere. Internet comments. Political banter. Sports rivalries that go too far. Listening to pundits. And especially the media…because, unfortunately, news that makes people angry, especially angry at “those people over there”, sells. Everywhere we go there’s a chance to get angry. A lot of people make a career out of it. Why do we seem to be “glad to be angry” at things? Why do we appear to enjoy the feeling of being angry?
There’s a number of possible reasons. Anger tends to be an emotion associated with the “fight or flight” response, which can be triggered by a variety of emotions (not the least of which is anxiety) but is often used when we get more aggressive, or into the “fighting” sphere. In either case, it involves a surge of adrenaline and as a result can make us feel impassioned, stronger, and bolder. It also can cause deadening of pain or discomfort, whether physical or emotional, and energize us in a period of depression or bad feelings. (Small wonder that anger and anger-derived emotions can lead to disorders where people have trouble controlling their rage or emotions.) Since we’re built to deal with life-threatening danger fairly regularly but we don’t experience it, maybe it’s because we feel so repressed and confined to more “mundane” things that we get emotional highs from being upset about things.
However, as Spike illustrates in this episode, I think the main reason we “like” being angry at others is something far more basic: insecurity. Was it really Owluiscious that Spike was “mad at”? Or was it the fact he had been faced with not one but two failures he had made as Twilight’s “number one assistant” (burning the book and falling asleep on duty) and seeing someone do his same job but better made him realize his own faults? Hence, it was easier to “point out” someone else’s shortcomings rather than face up to his own?
I honestly think the same thing happens in real life. It makes sense why talk shows like “Jerry Springer” are so popular even if the people regularly on them are ones we wouldn’t wish to emulate, or why we enjoy spreading links to stories about people who did rather bad or shameful things around so much. So long as we find someone who’s “worse off” than us, someone we can harp on and accuse and point out the flaws of, we feel better about ourselves. “Well, I may do this, that, or the other thing in my life, or I might hold that bit of hate in my heart or engage in that little sin, but at least I’m not THAT person. They’re terrible. They’re sick. They’re twisted. They’re horrible people and I am so much better than that.”
In a sense, that makes us a lot like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. As the Bible points out, they knew exactly when Jesus was pointing things out about them. In Matthew 21:45: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.” And even if they would deny it, I believe deep down in their heart-of-hearts they knew He was telling the truth. Their answer wasn’t to examine their own lives and find out what they were doing wrong. Their answer wasn’t to see if their man-made traditions or regulations were truly methods of control rather than “pure religion”. And their answer definitely wasn’t to listen to what Lord Jesus was saying. It was to start trying to finding out things wrong with Jesus. As the Gospels outline, Jesus ended up being condemned for associating with tax collectors and prostitutes and, as said in Matthew 11:19, considered “a drunkard and a glutton”. In Matthew 9:34, they even go so far as to say the reason Jesus is able to drive out demons is because He’s a devil worshiper, which Jesus points out shortly after is so ridiculous-sounding it’s a contradiction.
In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus instructed: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” This is normally used as a passage that’s a variation on “judge not lest ye be judged”, but, like many passages of the Bible, I think it has more than one lesson in it. Note that Jesus uses the term “hypocrite”, a term He normally reserved for the Pharisees and Sadducees, and I think that was intentional. Jesus was giving a cautionary lesson, I believe, about constantly looking for what other people are doing wrong and getting upset at it so that we don’t worry about improving the one individual we have complete control over: ourselves. And, admittedly, it’s far easier to control the sin in our own lives than to control it in the lives of those around us.
While the Bible calls on us to call out sin when we see it, let us always make sure we’re truly calling out sin and something that needs to be pointed out…as opposed to hiding something about ourselves or ashamed of something about ourselves, and attempting to “cover it up” by calling so much attention to another’s sins they don’t look our way. Remember, Jesus never condemned the sinners, tax collectors, or prostitutes who admitted their own faults and weaknesses to Him freely…but He did condemn those who were righteous in their own eyes.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that in spite of my own shortcomings, weaknesses, and tendencies to look away from my own faults, that you always guide me to be honest with myself and help me to improve. If there is hate or animosity I bear in myself toward someone that I feel is ‘righteous’ or ‘justified’, help me to first clean my own conscience and make sure that my anger is not simply to help me feel self-righteous in spite of my own sin. Help me to always focus first on removing the “log in my own eye” before looking for specks in the eyes of others. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”