anger

Anger, Division, and Forgiveness

When anger follows you

I know as a writer it is smart write “we” when I really mean “you”. But I am saying “we” in this post with complete honesty.

It is exceptionally easy to find something to be angry about. So easy in fact, we can easily avoid finding out why we are actually angry by just hopping on social media or turning on the news. We like to see ourselves as either the heroes or the victims and turn the people who make us uncomfortable into either wimpy idiots or aggressors.

There are things worth getting angry over. But at some point, it is important to zoom out and ask ourselves this question: How many seasons of my life can be defined by anger (angry at them for ___, angry at him for ___, angry at myself for ___, angry at her for ___, angry that everyone has disappointed me and will continue to)?

Follow up question: Have you considered that maybe part of the problem lies within you? Are we the common denominator?

 

Self Reflection

Through many different seasons, I found myself in the middle of  tense relationships. If you know me, you know that I love studying mediation. It’s my favorite topic. What keeps mediation from working? A refusal to self-reflect. If one party will not be open to the idea that they at least contributed to the conflict, there is no going anywhere. This refusal can come either by choosing to only acknowledge oneself’s best qualities or, through lying. This anchor of blaming others is a tricky one to unearth, because it seems SO MUCH EASIER to insist that you need an apology first.

We all need an apology, am I right?

We have all been wronged in some way by this broken world. We are just a bunch of people walking around with our hurt-turned-anger waiting on someone to apologize before we are willing to self-reflect.

You know what God says to us? “You’re Forgiven.”

“I forgive you.”

The other night, I snapped at Bryan over a we-were-both-too-tired-to-get-up-and-help-the-baby moment. When I got back in bed I grunted, “I am sorry I snapped at you.” He said, “I forgive you.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was head-to-pillow awake, for what felt like hours, thinking about all the other things “I was sorry” for. “Sorry I got up and took care of the teething baby” etc, etc, etc.

In the morning I apologized again. This time I meant it. The truth is, I just wanted to be mad, but it isn’t healthy to be mad at a baby for having needs. I wanted my frustration to be validated by someone saying, “I am sorry.” But more than that, I want to be like Jesus. I want to be full of compassion, pouring myself out like a drink offering for the people I love; and when I do really get hurt by someone, I want them to be forgiven.

 

Division

It’s the hot button topic. We are a divided nation. What’s worse? We are a divided church: made to be one body torn apart by our sin. Much like division that can happen between two people, it is really hard to talk “contributions” when we find ourselves hurt and angry. I feel like this. I hear myself calling those on the other side names in my head, questioning their motives, certain that I have no fault.

Blame can feel good, but it actually doesn’t work as well as we hope. Blame doesn’t move you toward future success, it only ascribes labels to the past. We want the future, don’t we? We want something beautiful. The question is, do we want it with “them”? Do we want to be unified?

Much like any close relationship, if your motive in an argument is to prove you’re right, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Unity takes desire, effort, and a willingness to listen. Question: Do you have any of those to spare for the other side?

 

Good News

You are forgiven. You have contributed to the divide in some way, but you are forgiven.

See, the other night, I didn’t want to hear that I was forgiven because I wanted to blame. And when I considered the evidence, I was NOT to blame. But, that conversation wasn’t about blame (no sense in blaming a baby), and I still needed forgiveness for my contribution. As I steamed while he snored I *eventually* brought my frustration to God. Slowly, my heart softened as His Spirit revealed to me that I should not serve my child as a “gift” to my husband. Bryan doesn’t “owe” me. I serve my children because God himself, entrusted them to me.

“... all things as unto the Lord…”

When I came to a place of humility before God, he exposed to me the reason why my contribution to the problem was not as small or meaningless as I wanted to believe. Revealing a root of damaging motives, he provided a correction that extinguished the flicker of future conflict. Then, he reminded me in a deeper way of the same thing Bryan said. “I forgive you.” And it was during that time, exposed by the Light, that I received the gift of peace, refinement, and closeness with God himself.

 

In Conclusion

Do I think there is a right and a wrong? Yes. Will I continue to try to speak up for justice and mercy in the best way I know how? Yes. But I commit to remembering that I am forgiven. Unity isn’t going to start with an apology. Unity will burgeon when we remember we are first and foremost forgiven.

Be willing to put aside claiming victory over fellow believers and, with a repentant heart, genuinely desire unity because God desires unity. Inaction is sinful when it is a response to a command from God.

 

A Little Something About My Anger

I want to say something: I’ve tried to be forgiving. And yet. There were times in my life, whole years, when anger got the better of me. Ugliness turned me inside out. There was a certain satisfaction in bitterness. I courted it. It was standing outside, and I invited it in.
— Nicole Krauss

The first time I told someone I hated them, I was in 1st grade. It was my teacher. That same year, I peed on her brand new carpet. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure she shared the same seething emotion towards me. This was just the first sign.

You see, ever since I can remember, I've held tight to one particular sin.  

I've nurtured it. I've celebrated it. I've laughed about it, made excuses for it, clung to it. I've welcomed it to my life like a trusty companion. It was my strength. It was my god.

Anger will do that to you.

When my parents divorced, I survived in anger.

When my friends were murdered, I clung to anger.

When my dad got sick, I thrived in anger.

When my mentors died, I cultivated anger.

When life after college wasn't all that I thought it would be, I wallowed in anger.

‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
— Ephesians 4:26-27

Is it a sin to feel angry? No. Not anymore than it is to feel sad or happy or any other emotion. You will get angry in life. That’s inevitable.

Hear me now, it’s not that I felt an emotion, it’s that I let that emotion become me. It breathed death into me, every fiber of my being poisoned by its control.

If you’re reading this article and don’t know me, by this point you probably think I’m like a raving lunatic who yells at strangers in the grocery store. Let me assure you that if you saw me on the street (or in the grocery store), I’d look like any other mild mannered, slightly eccentric 20-something. I rarely raise my voice in anger. I giggle almost constantly especially when I’m in a tense situation. The last thing I punched was my pillow… and that was to make it fluffier. 

I am not the poster child of anger.

I am not the Hulk. I am not Mike Tyson.

But she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.”
— Ruth 1:20-21

I was Naomi and now I am Mara.

I have suffered and now I am bitter.

In the midst of my bitterness, in my lowest of lows, the unthinkable happened. My father died.

Just like that. In the blink of an eye, in the smallest of breaths, my father left me here. Alone and scared. Bitter and angry.

Just like that.

 

Just.

Like.

That.

----

Days went by. He sent me laughter.

Months went by. He solidified my community.

A year went by. He gave me wisdom.

----

And just like that, with the biggest tragedy of my life, my Heavenly Father, did the unimaginable. He began softening my heart. Just like Naomi, I have had blessings in front of my face all these years. And just like Naomi, I was blind to them. I cloaked myself in bitterness and it became my identity. It became my name.

He has taken my bitterness. He has nailed it to the cross. He has redeemed my life for His glory.

I hated Him and He loved me. I yelled at Him and He whispered my name. I have forsaken Him and He has welcomed me back with open arms.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1

I write this confession, this warning, knowing full well that some of you are struggling with bitterness and anger. You are living in bondage of sin because you don’t know how else to live. Hear me now brothers and sisters, you are not alone. Life is hard, it is cruel, it is unfair but our God is good. Perhaps you’ve lost friends. Perhaps you’ve been through divorce. Perhaps you’ve been assaulted. Whatever those burdens might be, and they may be many, we have a God big enough for all of them.

I beg you brothers and sisters, don’t burden yourself again by the yoke of slavery. Don’t waste your years fighting a battle that has already been won.

Hear me when I say:

Your name is not bitter.

Your name is redeemed.

Your name is rescued.

Your name is freedom.

You are a child of the One, True King. Your victory is won.