Book Review of Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison

November 28, 2017

Gospel-Focused

There are many Christian books written on anger. When I saw this book I thought, “Not another book on anger!” But then I took a second look at the title. It read GOOD & Angry. I wondered, “Was this author writing about the ugliest kind of anger that says, ‘Now I’m really mad! I’m good and angry!’” Reading further, I realized this book has a very interesting twist on the topic of anger. It not only discusses the destructive side of anger but offers a different side to anger, the constructive side.

In Good & Angry, David Powlison describes anger as “anger gone wrong” and “anger done right.” Anger gone wrong is returning evil for evil. Anger done right “is meant to be laced with mercy and loving intent” (p. 20). Anger done right is gospel-focused. It is modeled after God and Jesus. Powlison states, “God, who is good and does good, expresses good anger for a good cause. Jesus gets good and angry—in the service of mercy and peace” (p. 1).

As the subtitle reads, Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness, there is hope in the gospel for when we experience anger gone bad. Powlison encourages his readers by reminding us about the character of God. “He is willing and able to forgive us for our anger gone bad. He is willing and able to teach us to do anger right” (p. 1).

Interactive

Powlison, Executive Director of CCEF and a counselor for over thirty years, pulls no punches but tells us the whole truth. “This book is for all of us because we all experience anger” (p. 9). As a skilled and seasoned counselor, he not only tells us the truth, but gives us practical tips on how to use this book in such a way to get the most out of it and to be transformed. He encourages the reader with three interactive tips:

  • To “read with a pen in hand
  • To “read with a yellow highlighter next to your pen,” to help you notice, stop, and consider so that you can respond
  • To “pay close attention whenever you find yourself thinking, but what about…? Write them down and save for later” (p. 4).

These tips are important because throughout each chapter, he asks questions as if you are sitting across from him in the counseling room. He describes this book as a slowly unfolding meal.

The Roadmap through Anger

Throughout Good and Angry, what stands out is Powlison’s gifting and intimate knowledge of how the biblical counseling process works in the lives of suffering and hurting people. He examines real people with real issues. He uses actual cases studies, including his own personal experience with anger.

There are four sections that deliberately build upon one another. In section one, he takes three chapters to lay the foundation for how we personally experience anger. He places anger into four categories: mild, veiled, buried, or intense. This helps the reader to identify where anger has gone bad.

Section two shapes the biblical groundwork of anger. It explains the what, how, and why of anger. Powlison states, “When you get angry, all of you gets involved. We will look at your agitated body, your heated emotions, your judgmental thoughts, your aggressive actions, and your godlike motive” (p. 47). He encourages the reader to examine the heart and soul of personal anger.

Section two, in my opinion, holds the most inspiring response to turning anger into a force for good. Powlison calls it the constructive displeasure of mercy in which he takes four seemingly common biblical concepts (patience, forgiveness, charity, and constructive conflict) and demonstrates how they “express the most powerful interpersonal dynamic imaginable” (p. 77). Taken from the characteristics of Christ himself, these four aspects of mercy are the “engine of peacemaking. It is the triumph of love over hate, indifference, and living for personal pleasure” (p. 77).

Section three is where the rubber meets the road. Powlison devotes three chapters to the practical steps of how to change. He tackles how destructive anger is changed into something constructive. He says, “Formerly angry people are enabled by God to give love and to make true peace” (p. 139). He gets even more specific by offering eight questions that take anger apart to put it back together (p. 152):

  • What is my situation?
  • How do I react?
  • What are my motives?
  • What are the consequences?
  • What is true?
  • How do I turn to God for help?
  • How could I respond constructively in this situation?
  • What are the consequences of faith and obedience?

In section four, Powlison tackles the hard cases. He courageously explores four key problems: extreme provocations to anger, everyday irritants, anger at yourself, and anger at God. He does not give false hope that promises you can get over a terrible wrong done to you. However, he does offer a surprisingly realistic hope: “We must learn to live honestly in the face of evils that don’t necessarily go away” (p. 178). He shows us that there is a way to go through difficult troubles and problems and come out in a constructively good place.

Highly Recommended

Good and Angry is an excellent resource for pastors, Bible teachers, and counselors to use in their ministry to others. It does not offer a cure for anger, but it offers biblical solutions rather than strategies for anger management. The end of each chapter has a section called “Making It Your Own.” These deep-dive questions make this book an ideal tool for counselors to use as homework for their counselees. The personal reflection questions are meant to take the reader/counselee deeper with the material learned in each chapter.

While there are other good biblical counseling books on anger, Powlison’s book is now at the top of my list of books on anger that I will use in the counseling room. With Powlison as my “co-counselor,” I can confidently use this book as a roadmap to help my counselees through the process of changing destructive anger into something constructive.

BCC Staff Note: Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness is available for purchase at Biblical Counseling Books and Amazon.


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