Anger that Won't Go Away
“. . . human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:20
Sometimes there is an anger within that we have come to accept. Someone has hurt us and inside we are still seething. It’s invisible, deniable, and controlled. But it’s there. What do we do?
First, we have to be honest with ourselves about our anger. There are many who’ve been taught that anger is wrong and, therefore, no matter what they feel, they will not label it as “anger”. It might be frustration or irritation, but never anger. We need to get past the terminology barrier and accept and understand that sometimes we feel anger – we all do.
In acknowledging our anger, we should be specific. Think about what it is the other person did. What specifically was hurtful? What did it cost you in terms of prestige, reputation, money, or opportunity? Acknowledge that cost; don’t gloss it over. Allow yourself to feel the pain and grieve the loss.
The second step may be harder, but no matter how terrible a person may behave toward us, there should be some point of empathy at which we can connect. I did this recently in a relationship issue and was amazed as I realized that the woman I was having a problem with was probably someone I should feel sorry for. Just seeing life from her perspective gave me a whole new energy for treating her with respect and patience even though I knew she would probably make a hurtful remark next time I saw her. Think deeply and ask the Spirit to help you see truth. Even the person whose life seems perfect faces troubles and difficulties. If the offending person is offensive to us, he/she probably is offensive to others, too. Even that would be a heavy burden to carry.
Third, we must forgive. There are two bottom-line directives in the Bible that I can never find a way around: One is to love and the other is to forgive. In spite of all the exceptions I think I see, God says there are none. We must love everyone as he loves us, and we must forgive as we have been forgiven. So, no matter what the other person has done that engenders this anger within us, we must forgive. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a choice.
You may have to make that choice over and over again, but eventually the time between the times of having to forgive will become longer and longer until the day comes in which you have not had to repeat the forgiveness for a whole day. Forgiveness in this sense means that you do not hold ill-will toward the offender. You simply want God’s best for him, you wish him well, you can pray for good things to happen to him and mean it.
It does not mean that he deserves to be forgiven (the only reason you are doing this, remember, is to be obedient to God in dealing with your anger), nor does it mean that he has asked to be forgiven. It just means that we do it because it is good for us to do it in obedience to our Father in heaven who has already forgiven us.
Just because you forgive does not mean the anger-inducing person will change. We must acknowledge that even if they never change, we are going to be forgiving anyway. And it’s OK to protect ourselves from future hurts. That is probably part of the reason that Proverbs tells us to avoid angry people. They will just hurt us again. Sometimes we don’t have that choice, though, so we protect ourselves in other ways.
Finally, once we have forgiven, the next step might be to think of something nice we can do for the offending person. Maybe we send a note or simply do a good deed. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to prove to our own selves that we are putting forgiveness into practice.
We are the ones who will benefit most from our ability to acknowledge and deal with our anger and then to forgive the unforgivable in another person. While these actions may handle our anger, they may not go so far as to resolve a conflict between us and another. Resolution, if possible at all, will take a few more steps that we will look at that in our next post.