As many of you know, I’ve been blogging for about five years now . . . learning many lessons along the way. Among those, one of the most important has been learning when to write, or perhaps I should say – learning when not to write. And I’ve had to make some rules for myself, rules that don’t always follow my feelings or the sacred “inspiration.” Chief among those rules is:
No Writing While Angry (WWA)
Let me tell you why this rule is so important to me. Over time, I’ve learned that angry posts are some of the very easiest to write. When I am really charged with something, the words just drip out of my fingers. Sentences form without me thinking of them. I can write long, thoughtful essays in one quick sitting. My angry posts have been some of the most shareable things I’ve written. I can release all these feelings to the World Wide Web and
My angry posts don’t just inspire others, they also get me moving. They tend to spur me towards action. For a day or a week or a month I will go nuts on whatever topic inspired the angry posting. Anger is a powerful motivator. I tend to get more than a few things done.
Externally, there is a lot of value in angry posting.
It makes me feel significant.
It spurs me (and sometimes others) to action.
But . . . there is a flip side to WWA:
Say what? Didn’t I just tell you that it helps me get things done and inspires others to do the same?
Yes, yes I did. But that is just part of the story.
WWA may make me feel better in the moment, but it tends to be sort of draining . . . and not in the “drain it all out and let it go” kind of way. It’s like a cigarette burning at both ends: yes, it lets me get something out, but it also burns me out in the process. I think this is why activity spurred by WWA tends to be short-lived: nobody can burn at both ends indefinitely.
And WWA causes another problem: it doesn’t just drain me; it tends to drain the world too. You see, anger is like a fire. It is super-contagious. For reasons I can’t fully explain, anger tends to make us all feel temporarily purposeful and “full.” So when we release our anger into the world, people consume it. This attribute is one reason politicians and writers and even pastors sometimes use it . . . it gets a response.
But the problem is, just like fire – the response it elicits is often out of our control. When WWA, I am often thinking about myself and my feelings. But when I unleash my feelings into the world, I have no control of how they will impact someone else. Sometimes, it will motivate someone in the direction that I want to motivate him or her. But sometimes, it just makes someone feel angry in a general sense. If you add my voice to the voices of 1,000 other angry communicators, then you have a lot of generalized anger floating around.
This, of course, leads me to my last point. Unspecified, general anger can be very dangerous. It seems like every month, there is another mass shooting, another senseless crime, another anger-fueled tragedy. While each of these scenarios has its own unique variables, it’s hard to deny that anger is often a chief motivator.
So, is it my fault if someone reads my angry words and goes out and does something senseless?
Sure, I can’t control what someone does with my writing. But, if my content is full of anger, and anger is contagious, then it’s not hard to see that my anger could have a terrible and tragic outcome that I didn’t intend. It’s no wonder that the Bible compares rash words to sword thrusts (Proverbs 12:18). What seems therapeutic at the time can sometimes be deadly!
If you look through my files, you will no doubt see that I have engaged in WWA, and I’m likely to do it again in the future. Anger is powerful and sometimes overwhelms good sense. However, this is a gentle reminder to me (and maybe you!) to consider our impact before airing our emotions publicly. We all often wield more impact than we realize, and WWA is rarely the responsible thing to do.
James 3:5: “. . . [T]he tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”