I have written and rewritten this opening paragraph more times than I care to think about. I think my struggle has been to write about anger in a real, personal way that is both transparent and helpful and yet honors the right to privacy of others. Sometimes a fine line to walk, you know?
In deciding to write a blog series about our human emotions, I knew there would be subjects that would be hard to talk about because they involve some fairly deep-rooted and not altogether pleasant memories for me. And at the end of the day, I don't know that I WANT to write about them, nor do I know if you NEED to read about them.
So how do I write about anger? I've written about anger before, many times in fact. I've written about the physiological effects of anger. I've written about anger in your marriage. I've even written about losing your temper (which isn't so much anger as it is a lack of self-control).
But the anger I am talking about is the kind that is deep-seated, often rooted in unforgiveness of an event or a lifetime of events. The anger I'm talking about bubbles to the surface in ways that are often shocking to the person who is angry as well as the people caught in the wake of their anger.
It's that anger that is crushing and cruel and has one purpose; to seek retribution for the pain and injustice that caused its birth in the first place.
I've known many angry people in my lifetime. Many. Too many for one lifetime, to be sure. But every angry person I have ever known shares one characteristic; they have been hurt, badly and deeply, and they don't have a clue how to free themselves from the bondage of that pain. So they lash out.
Some lash out physically, some verbally, often without provocation, always with devastating effects to the people in their lives.
THE SOURCE OF ANGER
I learned from an incredible friend and valued mentor that the source of anger, real anger, is unforgiveness. Getting to the place where you can identify the core of your own anger is very, very difficult and very, very necessary.
I recently had a long talk with a friend of mine who grew up in a very angry home. He was beaten, shouted at, ridiculed and betrayed by the very people who should have been his protectors, a fact that birthed in him an anger that eventually consumed him and the people around him.
What I learned about him as we talked was that though he felt he had forgiven his abusers, he could rattle off a list of offenses so quickly and with such deep emotion, that it surprised even him.
Find the source of the pain, find the source of the anger.
We hold onto anger because it makes us feel powerful and invincible. It's our way of shouting, "I will never be hurt again." Maybe we don't realize that's what we're shouting, but it is.
We hold onto anger (or more accurately, unforgiveness) because it lets us feel we hold a debt over those whom have hurt us, a debt from which they will not easily be released. For in releasing them, we fear we give them power to hurt us all over again.
But anger is a thief. It is born of unforgiveness and hatred, and it robs us of many things, the greatest of which is freedom.
If you are angry, I have to ask you, do you feel free or do you feel imprisoned?
WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE?
Anytime I feel anger over something; deep, real anger, I have to ask myself, what am I so mad about? Is this thing I am blowing up about the root of my anger, or a symptom of a deeper issue? And once explored and defined, I ask myself these questions:
- Will I harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, or will I freely forgive others?
- Will I continue to be angry, or will I release myself from the bondage of my anger?
Indeed, will I choose bondage or freedom? Because ultimately, that's what my choices will lead me to, either bondage or freedom.
But here is our promise:
Galatians 5:1 "But it is for freedom that Christ has set us free . . ."
Christ HAS set us . . . me . . . free. Not Christ "will" set me free, but he "HAS" set me free. I am already free. Any bondage I choose to live in, is then, of my own choosing.
All that to say, I hope you will choose freedom over anger. And once chosen, I hope you will walk in that freedom. For it is a choice.