I wrote a series of meditations for men and women whose anger has hurt others—A Small Book about a Big Problem. This, certainly, includes us all. Yet there is a version of anger that these meditations only touch briefly and recently someone raised it with me.
What about angry victims?
My first response to an angry victim would be: “Help me understand what happened.” In my experience, the problem for victims is rarely their anger. Their anger is more often a front for the pain of betrayal and harm. It is their temporary protection. When victims speak with someone who actually cares for them, their anger typically vanishes. Otherwise, I look for anger that victims might unleash on themselves: “I am so stupid. How could I have let that happen?” Or, since victims have often been coached by perpetrators to feel responsible for perpetrators’ behaviors, victims can mimic the abusers’ degrading words and actions.
But what if a victim can persuade you that his or her anger against the perpetrator is a priority? The challenge is that there are ten different ways that Scripture could help. Do you leave room for God’s wrath? Do you consider how Jesus gave matters of justice over to his Father? What about those “burning coals” Paul talks about in Romans 12:20? And so on. With so many options, the task becomes a joint venture in identifying what God says that is most important. Most likely this will include at least this one sure thing for the victim—speak to the Lord. Speak to the God who hears and who even gives you words for your misery and the oppressive acts done against you. If you are the helper and are searching the psalms for help, Psalm 5 is the first of the imprecatory psalms. Victims will recognize themselves in it. Though it might take years to master and be mastered by this psalm, they will be years in which the Lord both invites our words, shapes our hearts and brings us into his heart.
May we all grow in knowing God’s heart for the oppressed and shamed, even when they seem angry.