These days, as much as I have ever witnessed in my life, are typified by anger. While much of it may be directed at our President (either the past one or the present one), much of the anger I see is directed at larger groups of people. These groups, whoever they may be, may represent values that we stand in opposition to. Or they may represent a group that we perceive as hurtful to us. It could be that our anger towards them lies in the fact that they just plain irritate us. It may be the rich, the poor, the blacks, the whites, the millennials, the previous generation, the powerful elites that oppress the rest of us, or the leeching lower classes that bleed the wealth of others. Whatever the root, we look at these groups of people with invective as “those people.”
Just to make it easier to talk about, let’s assume that the people consumed with this anger are friends of ours (however, don’t neglect a little healthy self-examination to see if you are guilty of it yourself). How can we counsel friends who harbor this sort of general anger?
The first thing to try to establish is why this group has been deemed worthy of this anger. Often, it is rooted in generalities that are not true of every person in this group. However, they have lumped all together as a target. Second, the underlying idolatry of the angry person must be uncovered. When we or anyone else falls prey to anger, it is often because an idol is being starved, deprived, or ignored. We will not allow that to go unchecked.
Once these underlying issues have been brought to the surface, we can talk constructively. We can start by helping them to understand a couple of truths. First of all, they don’t really know these people—these people are individuals that they have lumped into one carefully constructed caricature in order to make a convenient target for their anger. Secondly, your friend must realize that each of these individuals has their own story. They may not have chosen their circumstance. They have challenges and difficulties that your friend simply has no grasp of. They may have the same challenge of lack of understanding that your friend has. It is my conviction that many conflicts, real or perceived, can be either resolved or lessened by each party taking the effort to understand stories of the people that they perceive as the opposition. When we do this, we understand them as individuals instead of nameless groups.
Remember the Individual
I have a friend of my own in mind that is a polar opposite of myself in almost every way. Given some of the difference between us, he could easily have been lumped into one of the “those people” groups that we can get angry with, and likewise I could have been the same to him. Instead, we have resisted that temptation by focusing on the individual stories that we have. I began to see the events and traumas that have contributed to make him have the points of view that he holds. Conversely, he sees me as a product of the events of my life as well. It breaks down the barriers that could be so easily constructed and keeps the anger of false generalities from arising.
Lastly, we must remember that we come to the cross of Christ as individuals not as demographic groups. Jesus saves us one soul at a time, and we should concentrate on seeing “those people” the same way.
This article was first published in Every Thought Captive magazine. SUBSCRIBE HERE