On Being Hangry

Language is never static.  It always has a backstory.  Languages are living things, constantly changing to reflect a culture.   Like rings on a tree, linguistic change charts cultural change.  Words indexed to outdated ideas or behaviors become, ‘archaic.’  And new words are created to reflect cultural realities our forefathers could not have imagined.   This process can occur very quickly, especially as technological change accelerates the use of jargon.   

The English language often grows most prolifically by the addition of new verbs formed out of old or proper nouns.   For example, we ‘google’ and we ‘message.’   But it also grows through the conflation of adjectives to express multiple attributes in a single word for the sake of emphasis.   We see this in new super-adjectives such as “ginormous” and “hangry.”

“Hangry” is a conflation of hungry and angry to make a new word which means to be “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.”   Being hangry is not usually the result of real or sustained hunger, rather the American version of hunger – I don’t have what I want, when I want it.   Being “hangry” is an expression of simple whiny discontent.   While the word “hangry” has been around for over a century, it has only come into popular usage in the last few years as our culture has become increasingly discontent.

Recent studies have attempted to understand the relationship between being hungry and being ill-tempered.  In an article for Health.com, Deena Adimoolam, assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Bone Disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, observed.

“When we do not eat, blood sugar goes low. When your blood sugar falls, the hormones cortisol and epinephrine are released in an attempt to raise it back to normal. But those hormones also happen to lead to irritability.”

Scientists posit other possible connections between hunger and anger as well.  Yet the real problem is not one of cortisol and epinephrine, but discontent and lack of self-control.   Or worse, a lack of faith.

As Israel trekked toward Mt. Sinai, they were not really hungry.   But they were “hangry.” God delivered them through the midst of the Red Sea.  He slaked their thirst in the middle of a desert with a log and a bitter pool.   He directed their every step with a pillar of cloud and fire from one grace to another.  

Yet as days, stretched into weeks and weeks into a month the land became more inhospitable.   No forage appeared.   They began to worry and grumble.   They had flocks and herds, plenty of livestock, and perhaps even some remnants of their unleavened dough, but their anxiety got the better of them.

They became hangry.   And they took it out on Moses and Aaron, even though the pillar of God’s own presence stood right in front of them.  The Song of the Sea had faded from their lips and ears.   The miracle at Marah was quickly forgotten.   The Red Sea was out of sight and out of mind.   Though free, they continued to think like slaves.  Grumbling, always grumbling.   Longing for slavery with security rather than freedom with faith.

The Christian life ever suffers from the temptation to walk by sight, not by faith.   And this makes us spiritually hangry – bad-tempered and irritable because things have not happened as we expected.  Malcontentment is warned against throughout the scripture.  While contentment is encouraged.  Not because it is a meritorious virtue, but because it is a measure of our faith.   It is a thermometer, not a thermostat of our faith.   It flows out of a living faith and trust in God’s promises.   Phillip Ryken puts it bluntly.

Our complaints really are never caused by our outward circumstances.  Instead, they reveal the inward condition of our hearts.  [The Israelites] complaining went far beyond griping about their menu.  They were rebelling against God’s plan for their salvation.

Are you a complainer?  Is whining your first response to every crisis of belief?   Are you discontent with what God has brought to pass.  Are you rebelling against His way of saving and sanctifying you?   The people of Israel were not hungry.   They had not exhausted their provisions.   And more than that, God had promised to care for them even though their prospects looked bleak.   They were not hungry, but they were hangry.   And their “hanger” threatened to cause them to turn back from the promises and care of their God and Savior.  

Are you spiritually hangry?  Bad-tempered and irritable because God has not made you what you want to be?  Not given you what you desire?   Or led you into a bleak, monotonous, or unpromising situation?   Join us as we examine Exodus 16 and consider the dangers of complaining and the gracious means God gives to deliver us.

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