Lashing Out in My Anger

Lashing Out in My Anger

He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. Genesis 39:14

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had a rough week last week. It was just several little stressors that intersected at once, causing me to be agitated and angry. In my angst, I found myself short-tempered. I don’t know that I lashed out at anybody, but I certainly thought about it. I found it strangely soothing to fantasize about what I could or should say to anyone who was vexed me. I had to remind myself of something I’ve told my kids a thousand times – It’s OK to feel anger but it’s not OK to lash out at others, treating them badly in our anger. It’s a natural thing to do. When I hurt, I find perverse relief in hurting others, or at least fantasizing about it. As is often the case though, that which comes naturally to me, isn’t right or healthy.

This phenomenon – hurt people hurting people – is illustrated in today’s passage. In it, Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph into a sexual relationship with her. When he spurned her advances, she reacted ferociously to the rejection, sadistically trying to destroy Joseph’s life. Knowing exactly what would happen, she went to her husband and accused Joseph of sexual assault. Potiphar responded predictably, throwing Joseph in prison. Potiphar’s wife was hurt and, in her hurt, she lashed out destructively at what she felt was the source of her pain. Of course, the fault wasn’t with Joseph. He wasn’t the cause of her misery. She was. Her rage, hate, and pain were all of her own making. She couldn’t lash out at herself though. So, like a child, she threw a tantrum, trying to sooth herself by hurting Joseph. Hurt people hurt people.

This is one of our most basic and infantile flaws as humans. When stressed, it’s our nature to become irritable, finding relief in cruelty. It’s like coming home from a bad day at work and kicking the dog. It makes no sense. The dog didn’t do anything, but still, we find release in our malice. Like most instant gratifications, this is terribly self-destructive. Now, instead of just being angry and agitated, we’re guilty of bad behavior and fall deeper into the pit of sin and despair. We can lash out at others in our hurt, but it only makes us worse people in the end. If we desire to deal with our angst in a healthy manner, we must realize the truth that I had to repeat to myself last week – It’s OK to feel angry, but it’s not OK to hurt others in our anger.

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