What Do We Do With Anger? Walter Brueggemann On The Psalms Of Vengeance

Someone once said that most of the Bible speaks to us, but the Psalms speak for us. Enter the famed Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann:

HT: the Pastors’ Weekly email from ChurchLeaders.com.

Brueggemann proposes there are three things we can do with our anger when something unjust has happened to us:

1. We can act it out – but surely Christians don’t want to do that;
2. We can deny it – but then it comes out somewhere else, perhaps in our family;
3. We can give it to God.

It is that third way which he says is present in the ‘imprecatory Psalms’.

I love Brueggemann’s illustration of the parent who has to deal with two children, where one has been hurt and accuses the other of having caused the injury. The wise parent doesn’t say, “Don’t be angry,” but, “Let me deal with it.”

Yet so often I see options 1 and 2. I see option 1 in the way some Christians support aggressive international policies by their governments. I see option 2 among those Christians who know they need to forgive, but mistakenly think that means denying their anger. Brueggemann is right, it does come out somewhere else. Either they take it out on an innocent party, or on someone who has only wronged them a little. Or they suppress it and it turns into something like depression. (Not that I am saying all depression is caused this way – it isn’t.)

Option 3 is the ‘healthy option’.


  1. “Everybody’s talkin’ at me,
    I can’t hear a word they’re saying’
    Only the echoes in my mind.”

    We all know the theory don’t we.
    Sometimes an issue has moved beyond “forgiveness” and “vengeance” to that most fragile of words “trust”. Something we feel is unfair has happened, both parties know the theory of forgiveness but the person who feels wronged cannot regain ‘trust’ in the other person. We can pray about it, we can theorise about it…but in reality we can only wait and trust in the One who can do something about it.


  2. Thanks for sharing this. I’m trying to get an understanding of the imprecatory psalms that resonates with the ethics of the bible. i’ve read a lot of theories, but this one makes the most sense to me intuitively. thank you for sharing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s