“Hangry” & the Gospel

Han • gry (han-gree) adj
A state of anger caused by lack of food; hunger causing a negative change in emotional state.

Yesterday my husband had to leave the house very early. He usually takes care of our puppy in the morning, but because he had to get out the door, when he kissed me goodbye he asked, “Would you let Wendy out and feed her?” I groggily answered, “Sure.”

After falling asleep for another hour or so, I came downstairs and started the task I was determined to finish: cleaning the kitchen. Wendy was unusually restless. She kept pacing around, pawing at the couch, moping around by the door – she just wouldn’t get still! I was getting very annoyed trying to keep track of her and chided her to lay down. Finally she did and after an hour of work, I had a clean kitchen. Then my husband calls and it occurs to me to ask…”You fed Wendy this morning didn’t you?”

“No! I asked you to, remember?”
“You mean you didn’t let her out or feed her at all?…Oh my goodness, I’m such a jerk.”

Poor Wendy, she was hangry. Have you experienced this sudden and distinct downturn in your emotional state when you have an empty belly? Have you ever lashed out irrationally at someone and then realized you skipped lunch? Have you and your spouse ever been able to end an argument simply by putting food in your mouths? Then you have experienced “hanger.”


When I learned this term several months ago, I found it liberating. It made apologizing after an absurd argument easier and sound a little more sane. For example: “I’m sorry I argued with you for 45 minutes about what actor starred in that movie before we Googled it and found out you were right…I was hangry.” It frees me to give grace to others that are hangry – like Wendy yesterday. Of course it was all my fault, but it’s much easier to forgive her erratic behavior when I realized her little belly was empty. I imagine parents of young children feel similar when their kids pitch a fit and they realize they haven’t fed the child recently.

But friends, I have also used “hanger” as an excuse to be downright unkind. When you have that out-of-body experience watching yourself berate some poor, undeserving cashier or telemarketer and you see it’s both irrational and unloving, all the while justifying it in the back of your mind by a late lunch… that’s not right. As one who has been forgiven much, I can justify no amount of gracelessness in my speech. I dare not be like the man in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant who scorns great kindness shown him (from someone much greater) by not forgiving someone else a much smaller debt.

But even more than a “debtors ethic,” I can love others even in my hanger because the Spirit enables me. Ephesians 5:18-19 tells us:

…Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.
(emphasis added)

Hanger, when used as an excuse to be careless with my words and actions, is a sin. We are able to kill sin because Christ’s work on the cross cancelled all sin and our participation with His work by faith and repentance places us squarely in Him. In Christ, no hanger shall overcome us.

I read this quote from C.S. Lewis relating to a similar excuse we use to be unkind to others. We call it “sensitivity.” He provides the example of a domestic quarrel:

Did we pretend to be “hurt” in our sensitive and tender feelings (fine natures like ours are so vulnerable) when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in….And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called “sensitiveness” is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.¹

Indeed, we should mercilessly slay these types of sins when we’re made aware of them (often by the Spirit). And we can by targeting it with God’s word, repenting, asking forgiveness from those we’ve tongue-lashed, and for heaven’s sake – carry a granola bar on your person at all times! May we walk in the fullness of the goodness of the Gospel today!

1. Reflections on the Psalms, p.14, emphasis added.


4 thoughts on ““Hangry” & the Gospel

  1. Our daughter had a friend in high school who was diabetic, and when he was experiencing hunger, and a blood sugar low, his personality was very combative. My son, if he hasn’t eaten, is very irritable, and I think it’s a blood sugar level. Not an excuse to bite back at people, but something we can ask when someone we know may be struggling with that kind of thing. When I was pregnant with all three of my kids, I would have very irritable periods until I ate something, and it was a blood sugar issue.

    • Thanks for pointing that out – I think that’s the positive side of this. We can have grace and give the benefit of the doubt to someone who seems irrationally irritable to us. And we can choose to forgive quickly especially if it’s a legitimate medical condition (or pregnancy!) I didn’t mean to minimize conditions like diabetes and low blood sugar. My point was that an empty stomach, for me, is as you say no excuse to bite back at people. I should know myself well enough to know to carry snacks if I know I get irritable when I’m hungry. For me, that’s an issue of “counting others higher than myself” (Philippians 2:3).

  2. Thanks for adding a new word to my vocab, Tricia. When we are heading out for a few hours of errands on a weekend, my wife will usually remind me to grab a couple bars before leaving. Wise woman.

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