Not too long ago, Elizabeth Chang in the Washington Post stated the obvious: Americans are angry. The country erupted into the worst civil unrest in decades after the death of George Floyd, and anger about police violence and the country’s legacy of racism is still running high. At the same time, we’re dealing with anger provoked by the coronavirus pandemic: anger at public officials because they’ve shut down parts of society or anger because they aren’t doing enough to curb the virus. Anger about being required to wear a mask or anger toward people who refuse to wear a mask. Anger at anyone who doesn’t see things the “right” way. Americans are indeed angry!
“We’re living, in effect, in a big anger incubator,” said Raymond Novaco, a psychology professor at UC Irvine. According to psychiatrist Joshua Morganstein, the country is now dealing with “three disasters superimposed on top of one another”: the pandemic, the economic fallout, and civil unrest. Morganstein said, “Certainly, one way of responding, and a common way of responding, is anger.”
Surveys over the past few years suggested that anger had risen in the country even before the 2020 crises. A Gallup poll conducted in 2018, for example, concluded that Americans’ stress, worry, and anger had intensified that year. Twenty-two percent of Americans had felt anger the previous day, up from 17 percent a year earlier.
So how do you and I deal with this anger which we are experiencing? I am convinced there are at least two ways to answer that question.
First, in order to deal with the anger we are facing, I wonder if it is possible for us to learn to laugh a little more than we do. In Proverbs 17:22, we read, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Sometimes — often times — we take ourselves and our situations much too seriously. A friend of mine sent me this list of thoughts about the situation we are in, now in our sixth month of COVID-19. These words made me laugh, and that is good medicine! But there’s a lot of truth mixed in to consider…
1. So let me get this straight, there’s no cure for a virus that can be killed by sanitizer and hand soap?
2. Is it too early to put up the Christmas tree yet? I have run out of things to do.
3. When this virus thing is over with, I still want some of you to stay away from me.
4. If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on the planet.
5. Just wait a second — so what you’re telling me is that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right?
6. People are scared of getting fined or arrested for congregating in crowds, as if catching a deadly disease and dying a horrible death wasn’t enough of a deterrent.
7. If you believe all this will end and we will get back to normal just because we reopen everything, raise your hand. Now slap yourself with it.
8. Another Saturday night in the house and I just realized the trash goes out more than me.
9. Whoever decided a liquor store is more essential than a hair salon is obviously a bald-headed alcoholic.
10. Remember when you were little and all your underwear had the days of the week on them. Those would be helpful right now.
11. The spread of COVID-19 is based on two factors: 1. How dense the population is and 2. How dense the population is.
12. Remember all those times when you wished the weekend would last forever? Well, wish granted. Happy now?
13. Did a big load of pajamas so I would have enough clean work clothes for the week.
Did any of those bring a smile to your face and your heart? That’s great news!
But second, and of even greater priority, now more than ever before it is important for Christians to possess the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7 — “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”) by walking by means of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16 — “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh”), trusting in our Heavenly Father (Psalm 112:7 — “He will not fear evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD”), and showing hope to a desperate world (1 Peter 3:15 — “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence”)?
The challenge for each of us is not just to survive these times, but to prosper in them. And that is only possible as we put into practice these scriptural principles.
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.