Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Write-Up: Anger, by Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman.  Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion.  Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015.  See here to buy the book.

Gary Chapman is an evangelical Christian counselor.  This book is about how people can handle anger.

According to Chapman, anger is something that God has given us, for it can entail being upset at injustice, and this can lead to change for the good.  At the same time, Chapman acknowledges that anger is not always about injustice, for it can be about personal inconvenience, or it can result from a misunderstanding.  Chapman states that there are at least two ways to deal with anger at a person.  First, one can hold the anger back and give the person over to God, who is just, compassionate, and aware of where people are.  Proverbs 29:11, after all, states that the wise quietly hold back their anger.  Chapman later criticizes bottling anger up and letting it implode; whether that contradicts this piece of his advice, I do not know.  Second, one can tactfully confront the person, which accords with other biblical passages, particularly in the Gospel of Matthew.  Confrontation provides the offender with an opportunity to apologize, repent, and try to change his or her behavior, or to offer clarification in case of misunderstanding.  Chapman also discusses strategies in dealing with angry people: the key here, according to Chapman, is to listen to the angry person.  This, I think, is an important insight, for an angry person can easily alienate other people and be in a state of loneliness and isolation.

There is a rhyme and reason to what Chapman recommends.  I, for one, struggle with confronting people, but I can understand why Chapman would recommend such a course.  For a variety of reasons, however, I am doubtful that such a course will always make a person feel better, for it is not a one-size-fits-all strategy.  Some people do not care if they offend others because they are jerks.  You find plenty of these on the Internet.  I do not think that such people would be receptive were I to tell them that they hurt my feelings in a comment.  In some cases, confrontation may not be appropriate.  Chapman mentions a person who was angry because he was laid off.  Should that person go to his boss and explain why he is angry with him?  I cannot picture that as an appropriate response.  Sometimes the issue is not who is at fault or who sinned but may relate to different interests, personalities, preferences, or frustrated hopes and expectations.  I may be upset because a person stopped following my blog, for example, but that is no reason for me to confront that person: it is not as if the person is morally obligated to follow my blog.  Chapman’s advice on confrontation would probably work in friendships and family relationships, and maybe other situations, such as when a person is slandering someone (and Chapman presents a story about that).  It will not redress all situations that make a person angry, however, and, in light of that, I wish that Chapman offered more strategies on how to deal with anger.  One strategy that Chapman would probably recommend is prayer, and, while that may be effective, Chapman should have provided outlooks that people could embrace to help them rise above their anger.

The book, in my opinion, falls short, but I did appreciate Chapman’s compassionate, understanding tone towards people who struggle with anger, and also the stories that he shared.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Moody Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

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