Misplaced Anger

Misplaced Anger

So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” Genesis 4:5-7

Working in addiction medicine, my patients usually require a lot of time and effort to maintain strict control over their prescriptions. Abuse, diversion, and noncompliance are common. Occasionally, if a patient is unable to comply with the rules, I must stop a medication. For instance, I do prescribe suboxone for some patients, but if I discover they’re selling it on the street to buy methamphetamine, then I must stop the medication. Inevitably, this patient is angry with me. You can’t cut me off. You’re a terrible doctor. They’re furious with me, but their anger is misplaced. I’m not the one who sold their medication on the street. Unable to consider that they are the problem though, they direct their anger towards me.

I’ve done this. Back when I was diverting opioids for my own use, there were those who suspected my problem long before I officially got caught. In my wrath, I lashed out at them. How dare you impugn my name! I should have been mad at me, but I couldn’t face the truth and so, I turned on my accusers. You’ve got the problem. Leave me alone! Here’s the problem with that – Until I accepted that I was the problem, I was unable to consider any useful solution. As long as I blamed others, I was never going to find recovery.

Misplaced anger is the theme of today’s passage. In it, we’re told how God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but rejected Cain’s. In response to this rejection, Cain was angry with both God and Abel. So, God confronted Cain about his rage. Why are you angry? It was Cain who’d cheated God. It was Cain who kept the best for himself. It was Cain who gave God leftovers. Cain was at fault, yet in his rejection, he couldn’t consider his own guilt. Admitting responsibility was just too painful and so, he lashed out at God. God had him figured out though. This is your doing. You know the rules. If you follow them, you’ll do well and I’ll be pleased. You alone are in control of your actions and you alone are responsible for the consequences (my paraphrase).

This is the lesson of the passage for us. When we’re causing our own misery, we can certainly lash out at others. This may make us feel better for a moment, but it solves nothing and changes nothing. We can only begin to find transformation and recovery when we accept that we are our own greatest problem.

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