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You Can’t Be Mad

You Can’t Be Mad

And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Exodus 11:8

In my addiction, I betrayed my wife’s trust, publicly embarrassed her, and engaged in behavior that was incredibly hurtful to her. That hurt often manifest as anger. She would say that in her anger she didn’t handle herself well. That doesn’t mean however, that anger was an inappropriate response. As my wife, she has the right to expect a certain standard of behavior from me. When I failed spectacularly at meeting those expectations, upending her life in the process, she was justified in being hurt and angry.

I do consider addiction to be a disease. There’s no way to describe addictive behavior, except as pathologic. I’ve met those though, who would use the disease model of addiction to dismiss anyone’s right to anger. If it’s a disease, you can’t be angry. It’s not his fault. He’s got a brain disease, just like cancer. You wouldn’t be mad at someone with cancer, right? Cancer though, doesn’t make people lie, cheat, steal, betray loved ones, drive drunk, get in accidents, and kill innocent people. It may be unfair to be angry at the one who is addicted for having the disease, but that doesn’t absolve a person from all responsibility. The one struggling with addiction absolutely has a responsibility to seek appropriate treatment. When he fails to do so and engages in destructive behavior, anger may be an appropriate response by those who’re injured.

Moses modeled this in today’s passage in which Pharaoh displayed addictive and pathologic behavior. Pharaoh simply couldn’t let the Hebrews go, even though his people had suffered massive destruction for failing to listen to God. Even under threat of the 10th plague – the death of every firstborn child – Pharaoh refused to listen. Pharaoh repeatedly promised he’d let the Hebrews go, but as each plague was lifted, he changed his mind. Moses finally had enough. Pharaoh was about to unleash the wrath of God and Moses was angry at him for it.

It is hard not to act badly when we’re angry and we’re responsible for our own bad behavior. That doesn’t mean though, that we cannot be saddened, hurt, or angered by the toxic behavior of others. Anger is sometimes an appropriate response to hurtful actions. But I’ve got a disease. Yes, addiction is a disease, often accompanied by diseased behavior, for which the addicted is responsible. Just like the diabetic isn’t necessarily responsible for the underlying disease, he (or she) is still responsible for seeking treatment, eating right, and taking his medications. Disease doesn’t alleviate responsibility for destructive behavior and anger isn’t always an inappropriate response to that hurtful behavior.

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