The Skeleton at the Feast

by Bill Denton

"Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back-in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.

The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you."

Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: a Theological ABC (Harper, 1993)

The amazing truth is that angry people eat themselves up. Anger is an intense emotion. It produces adrenalin, causes us to be aggressive, hostile, and ready to attack. It may mask as a defense, but it's often used to launch a war. Anger can be swift to rise, but slow to abate. Once angry, a man or woman may remain angry for years, sometimes for life.

Watch an angry person. You'll soon know what or who it is that makes them angry. Buechner said, "anger is possibly the most fun." I'm sure that's tongue-in-cheek, but it's not a bad way to describe how we handle anger. I once read another way of putting it: we treat our wounds and grievances like pets. Whenever we can, we pull them out, pet them, show them off, caress them, and carry them with us. Our pets are never far away, always ready to sit on our laps, roll over and do tricks, and entertain our friends. Yes, we do all that with wounds and grievances over which we have long been angry. It's an odd picture, but a true one.

I've had a lot of people ask how they should deal with anger. I'm sorry to say I don't have any magic answers. I've got numerous counseling books, workbooks, sermons and more on the subject of anger. There is a lot of good information in those resources that can help. I have found that two things serve as the foundation for whatever else a person can do to deal with anger:

1. Time. Real anger takes time to overcome. I know the Bible says not to let the sun go down on your anger (Eph. 4:26). A point not always acted on is that the sooner you start dealing with anger, the more likely it is you will do so effectively. The worst thing a person can do with anger is allow it to feed and grow. Once alive, however, time can be a major factor in overcoming it.

2. Decision. People scoff at this idea, but I believe it is far more valuable than it appears. You must decide that you are going to put away your anger and overcome it. You might call it "repentance." It's a change in the way you think about things, and that is a decision. When you have clearly decided not to be angry, you can then effectively pursue steps to make it real.

To those who will not follow this advice, I can promise one thing: The feast of life will end up with bones of the dead. But the skeleton will be that of the angry man who ate himself up.

© Copyright 2006, Bill Denton All rights reserved. Articles may not be reprinted in any "for profit" publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Website information intact with copied articles.

Bill Denton has served in church ministry for more than 30 years. In addition to his preaching and teaching ministry, Bill is also a licensed clinical pastoral counselor and has served as director and counselor of a Christian counseling center.

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