Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.
Yesterday, I used the daily prompt, dormant, to talk about how anger that lies hidden deep inside can erupt into violence or descend into depression. Today, I’m stretching a point in using today’s prompt, harmonize, to talk about how a person who has been very angry can learn to live in harmony with the other people in his life. Here is the cure:
Yesterday, I wrote about anger and its results. You can see that article here:
Of course, there is much more to it than one short article can provide. What I shared yesterday, though, is a very common scenario for people who come to my counseling office for help with their anger. There can be other root causes for anger, but the result is always the same. The person who has been hurt or offended, especially over a long period of time, descends into self-pity, then to bitterness, and finally to depression. The depression will manifest with either anger and irritability, or with lots of tears, isolation, and thoughts of suicide. Either way, it’s a miserable way to live–and it’s not much fun for the people who live with the angry person.
So what is the cure? It’s complicated, as are all human emotions and reactions; however, it can be summed up in one word. The way to prevent a descent into self-pity, bitterness and depression is to learn to forgive. Forgiveness is the cure for chronic anger that leads to all those other miseries.
Because I’ve been doing counseling for 16 years now, I’ve already heard all the objections and excuses for why forgiveness is NOT the right answer. Here’s a short list of the most common objections:
But then the guilty person gets away with it!
But I don’t FEEL forgiveness–I just feel hatred, anger, or disgust.
But if I forgive him/her, then the bad treatment will continue!
Let me give you the reasons why forgiveness is so important.
First of all, God commands it. In the Bible, in Matthew 6: 9-13, Jesus made it clear the if we do not forgive others, then the Father cannot forgive us. Refusing to forgive is a primary cause of a broken relationship with God.
We forgive others in order to release ourselves from the prison of bitterness, depression, and our own anger.
We need to understand that when we refuse to forgive, the one(s) who hurt us continue to control our emotions, even from the grave.
Forgiving does not mean that we have to continue to accept abusive treatment at any level.
Finally, we can’t wait for the other person to ask for our forgiveness. They may never feel they’ve done anything wrong, and see no need to ask for forgiveness.
In my office, we often talk through these points over a period of several weeks. We don’t have that kind of time or space here, so I’m going to offer three more points that I hope will be helpful.
First, forgiveness is not just saying, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” Mistreatment and abuse are not okay. They need to be confronted and forgiven. If the offender insists he’s done no wrong, then the offended person needs to remove himself as much as possible from the abuse. There is help available through many avenues, including your state’s child protective services and/or shelters for victims of abuse; if you are a person of faith, there may be counseling available through your church.
Second, forgiveness is not a feeling or emotion. If we wait until we feel forgiving, it may never happen. Instead, forgiveness is a choice we make, an act of the will. It is a decision that is the beginning of a process.
Finally, forgiveness is a process, not an event. You will find that after the first moment you finally decide to forgive, you will feel an immense relief, like setting down a very heavy suitcase. But it will sneak back up on you when you least expect it, bringing all the ugly emotions back to life. At that moment, you have to forgive again. And again, and again, over and over, until even the memory of the abuse no longer engenders an emotional response. It gets easier with time. I know.
I would be happy to discuss any of this further in the comments section. I understand that just reading this once is probably not going to be enough. If you are struggling with anger, my prayer is that you will let it go, and learn to enjoy a life free of bitterness and defeat.
5 thoughts on “The Cure for Anger”
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Great article, Thank you.
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Thanks so much.
I agree; it’s a great article in a nutshell. it’s hard to cover all the angles in one blog post, but you’ve got the basics here.
One thought about forgiveness as a process: we have a book here about the Nickel Mines incident, where a gunman walked into an Amish school and killed a number of children. One of the parents afterward made the comment that they’ve chosen to forgive. But it’s a every day thing. Every time they think of it, they again have to let go of anger and bitterness.
Every day they face the loss of their children who were killed and every day they have to forgive. Not just the gunman (who later took his own life) but the incident itself. That it could and did happen to them. Sometimes we mere mortals have to forgive God for not intervening. I think that’s a tough one.
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That terrible incident happened less than a two-hour drive from my house. I’m sure the Amish understand that forgiving isn’t once and done. So much heartbreak.
In my counseling office, I get a lot of “Why didn’t God keep this from happening?” questions. That’s not easy to answer when someone’s heart is breaking. I believe, first, that God is not required to protect us from all evil. He has promised to be with us always, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, But nowhere does He say that because we are believers we will escape all tragedy. Second, Jesus said that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It’s a part of the human condition; we live in a fallen world.
To say such things to someone who is newly grief-stricken, though, is not the wisest thing to do. We are also called upon to weep with those who weep, to lift up weak hands and strengthen feeble knees. Sometimes that is all I can do in counseling someone whose heart is broken. The time for offering forgiveness will come, but not the very moment that tragedy strikes.