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Center for Action and Contemplation
When Anger Meets Love
When Anger Meets Love

Love and the Fire of Life

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Ecological teacher Sara Jolena Wolcott values what our anger can teach us, especially when it joins with love:

Increasingly, I see anger as being like fire. Fire is necessary for life.… Anger is a part of the larger fire in our lives. Anger is an important emotion; it is part of the flight-or-fight response that is core to how humans respond to danger. As such, it has a valuable role to play in our lives. It is important to feel fire’s heat, but fire can burn out of control. The trick with anger is to let it inform us, maybe even to let it warm us if we have become too cold with indifference or apathy, but not to let the fire control or consume us.

Ultimately, we want our lives to be guided: illuminated, warmed, comforted, provoked by our deep love affair with the Divine. That love, as so many mystics remind us, can also be like an all-consuming fire. So love, not anger, needs to be the ultimate guide. Sometimes anger can point us to love.…

I have sympathy with those spiritual leaders who say we should strive to get rid of anger, or at least to not act in anger. Yet the classic example of anger and spiritual teachers, at least within Christianity, is when Jesus overthrew the moneychangers’ tables (see Matthew 21:12–13). If the son of God can do this, we get the sense that it is fully acceptable to be righteously angry at systemic injustice that harms the poor and the vulnerable.

However, in the end, I don’t think Jesus’ passion or his death were lived through in anger—certainly his resurrection did not arise from a place of anger. So, what does that tell us? Anger can inform us and sometimes guide us, but anger is not the ultimate, final word; love is. Love is bigger than anger. Love still overtakes the divisions and fractions. I think there is room for anger in love. It is in God’s holy fires that these emotions can be used well. [1]

Brian McLaren reminds us that we can trust God with all our emotions, including our anger:

Opening ourselves to God when we’re in need says that we trust God and want God to accompany us, support us, and befriend us in every way.

We trust those we love most with our deepest fears, doubts, emptiness, and disillusionment. So we love God when we share those vulnerable aspects of our lives with God. Just as a little child in the middle of a temper tantrum can shout “I hate you, Mommy!” only because he knows his outburst will not end their relationship, we can express to God our deep doubts, anger, or frustrations only because we possess an even deeper trust in God’s love…. The fact that we share this pain with God rather than withhold it turns out to be an expression of love. [2]


[1] Shirin McArthur, “Learning of Fire: An Interview with Sara Jolena Wolcott,” Oneing 6, no. 1, Anger (Spring 2018): 39–41. Available in print and PDF download.

[2] Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), 213–214.

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

Anger is a spark that motivates us forward. Love is a pathway that funnels our motivation in an impactful direction.

Story from Our Community:  

As I continue to read the meditations and participate in the practices and courses here at CAC, the word “contemplative” has taken on a whole new, purposeful meaning to me…. I have deep concerns for the anger and fear throughout the world and in our church, families, and communities. I am concerned for future generations … with no church affiliation. But perhaps a new day of faith is already dawning. I have witnessed the younger generations caring for others, sharing with the community and each other, protecting one another, and experiencing God’s grace as I once did. Thank you for helping me discern these things and offering calming practices for my anxious heart and soul. —MYN.

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