David Powlison comments, “In Western culture, many theories of anger treat it as an emotional fluid that builds up pressure and must be released. This ‘hydraulic’ theory of anger contributes to the pop wisdom that anger, ‘just is, and is neither good or bad.’ Why does this theory seem plausible? Because images such as the following capture what anger can feel like: A person’s anger can be ‘pent up’; ‘his pump is primed.’ People can be ‘boiling mad,’ ‘filled’ with anger, waiting to ‘explode’. They ‘blow off steam.’ Old, unresolved anger can be ‘stored up inside,’ ‘harbored’ for decades. If you ‘get it off your chest’ so that your anger is ‘spent,’ you feel better.

“All these metaphors depict anger as a pressurized substance inside us. No doubt, these colorful depictions do capture how anger feels. But a metaphor is not meant to overpower the thing it intends to illustrate. Anger feels fiery, but it’s not a fire. The solution to sinful anger is not to surgically remove the furnace or to drink enough water to quench the flames! The solution is a moral one: to ‘turn’ from sin to God’s grace in repentant faith.”

David Powlison, Anger: Escaping the Maze (Phillipsburg, NJ.: P&R Publishing, 2000) p. 3. To obtain a copy of this very helpful booklet, call Resources for Changing Lives, 1.800.318.2186.

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Brian Hedges is Senior Pastor of Fulkerson Park Baptist Church in Niles, MI.