The “Inner Courtroom” of Anger (Powlison)

Good and Angry: Letting Go of Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness - Powlison, David 9781942572978

I’m in the middle of studying the fascinating story in 1 Samuel 20. In this story, King Saul goes into rage mode against Jonathan because Jonathan is protecting David. Jonathan, in turn, is angry with Saul because Saul tried to kill him, because Saul shamed David, and because Saul was trying to kill David. I’d argue that Saul’s anger is totally sinful while Jonathan’s anger is in some ways righteous anger. That’s a bigger discussion!

Speaking of anger, I appreciate David Powlison’s book, Good and Angry. I’ve mentioned it here before so I won’t go into it all. But below is a good section about how an angry person typically has an “inner courtroom.”

…A microcosm of the criminal justice system plays out in the courtroom of your mind. You play all the prosecuting roles simulating the jealous investegator, the sherriff serving summons to the offender, the D.A. pressing home irrefutable charges. You provide eyewitness testimony to the crimes, and you are the stern judge ready to mete out just punishment. You are the unanimous jury disposing of every thin alibi and extenuating circumstance, finding the accused ‘guilty as charged.’ You are the jailer of the convicted felons, and the hangman ready to administer capital punishment to evildoers.

But there’s usually something else distinctive about this courtroom. The trial is rigged. It’s a kangaroo court and the verdict is predetermined. The punishment is vigilante justice. With rare exceptions, in this private courtroom of the mind the accused is allowed no defense attorney, no character witnesses, no due process, no extenuating circumstances, no evidence to the contrary, no second chances, no plea of innocent, no possibility that the accuser got it wrong, no possibility of mercy for the guilty.

The judicial mental attitude is written deeply into the nature of anger. One goal of this book is that you will think more carefully about how you think when angry, so that your inner courtroom will grow more just. Anger is the attitude of judgment, legal condemnation, and moral displeasure….

David Powlison, Good and Angry, p. 51.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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