. . . but it can wear out its welcome!
It’s Narcissist Friday!
Let’s just admit that the Bible seems to send a conflicting message about anger. On one hand, we are told to avoid anger and get it out of our lives. On the other, we are told about the anger of God. I know that some people say only God has the right to be angry, but I think that misses the point. Anger might be a generally negative emotion, but I think our emotions reflect the way God made us.
There are many passages that speak of the anger of God against the cruelty of people. When Jesus saw the unkind hearts of the people around Him, He got angry (Mark 3:5). When God gets angry, something happens. The status quo is changed. And, if God can get angry, then good people can get angry. There is something good in anger.
Anger is a natural response against injustice and abuse. We might go so far as to say that it is a right response. It moves us to action. We used to refer to “righteous indignation.” Anger has moved some people to get up and rescue those who are being abused. Anger has moved some to work hard on changing laws and practices. Anger has moved some to make serious changes in themselves. Anger gets things moving.
Think of anger as a large and vicious dog that you keep in your house to protect your family. You know that the dog is powerful and ruthless and deserves respect. Yet, you keep it around anyway. Why? Because there is danger in your neighborhood and you need something strong and ferocious in your house.
Now, you can’t just let a dog like that run around the neighborhood terrorizing people. Nor should you let go of your caution when it is around your kids. The dog could get out of hand and become dangerous. But when the burglars or those who would harm your family come to your house, that dog could save their lives. He would be more alert, more aggressive, and a lot more formidable than you would be. You want the bad guys to be afraid.
Some people would say that they would never risk having a dog like that. I understand. There are risks, but sometimes the risk is worth taking.
There are times in life when anger is your friend. In dealing with narcissism, anger is natural, perhaps even right. Narcissists can be so cruel. Without anger, some people would not have the strength to separate themselves from a narcissist. Without anger, the narcissist may continue his/her abuse unhindered. Without anger, no one else may ever hear of the manipulations and lies.
Anger may be the one tool in your chest that gives you the strength to get out or to say no. I remember reading, very early in my study of narcissism, Vaknin’s comment that the most common response felt by those who realize they have been victims of narcissism is rage. Rage that stirs them to speaking loudly and acting harshly. Rage that makes a fist. Rage that finally moves the victim to pack up and move out.
But listen: you can’t live there. Rage drains your spirit and body of energy. Anger may be useful, but it cannot be sustained without great cost. Nor is it necessary. You don’t want your anger to become a dangerous part of your life. Like the big dog, anger can hurt your relationships and can hurt you. And anger can move you to do stupid things. Use wisdom and caution when you allow yourself to be angry.
So the Bible says that anger should be put away, not be allowed to stay for long. Even God’s anger lasts only a moment (Psalm 30:5). We must learn to control our anger, to be slow to anger. Otherwise, it is dangerous for us and others.
I know that most of us have been taught to hold in our anger or to deny it and call it wrong. The truth is that the big dog already lives with you. You can ignore it until it gets loose and causes problems, or you can accept its presence and understand its purpose.
My point in this post is not so much to change your thinking about anger, but to give you permission to use anger to move forward with your life. If you are the victim of a narcissist, you know that something has to change. Even if you stay in the relationship, you must establish boundaries and find ways to regain your health. The initial strength may come out as anger. Don’t be afraid of it.
And, I know that narcissists are usually angry people and would read this as a way to excuse their anger. The truth is that narcissists are what they are because of fear and anger. They like using the big dog to scare others. They think it makes them look strong and it moves others to do what they want. They don’t care about relationships.
But you are not like them. Your anger has a purpose and a place. Your anger does not control you. It is simply a tool for you to use and then set aside. You control it. Let it come out when you need it, then take it to the back yard when you don’t.
There is a risk for me to write this. I really don’t want readers to misunderstand. Anger is not bad, but anger is dangerous. It will consume you if you do not control it. Once your anger has done its work then you can choose not to live there. You do not have to use anger to maintain your boundaries or distance. Anger can be unpredictable and can flare out of control. We can hurt a lot of people with our anger. So be careful. But don’t abandon something God gave you for strength.
What about trusting the Lord and prayer? These are still most important, of course. Give all things over to the Lord and trust Him to lead you. Maybe you won’t need anger. Maybe you will do the right thing with peace of heart and ease. Maybe you will look at your narcissistic relationship and act in wisdom and freedom in the right way. But, if you have become confused or intimidated in the relationship, the Lord might just allow you to get angry enough to do something.