Anger stokes the fire of pride burning within. It extinguishes humility and quenches grace. Anger feeds my flesh and my sense of self-entitlement flourishes. Anger detains me in my hurt and tells me not to bother with people. Consequently, I isolate myself and retract into selfishness.
But upon closer examination, I find that anger is the mask I wear to conceal my hurt. Underneath my contentious grin and boiling blood lies an open wound that needs attention. Sadly, my wounds are usually caused by other people who, in some way, have not lived up to my expectations.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with anger toward people. Now, please don’t picture me having a temper tantrum complete with foot stomping and cries of rage. Not even close. My anger is more of a silent fury that sinks down deep into my belly and goes to sleep until aroused by some further annoyance caused by the same individual or at least, one of the same “kind.” At which time I choose to either walk away or work it out.
In the past, I most often chose the former.
These days I am trying to do more of the latter.
God has shown me how harboring anger and hurt has caused me to lose my passion for people.
There was a time I was hurt by the actions of several people in the span of just one week.
First, I loaned something of great value to a good friend in need. It was returned to me with damage. My friend never acknowleged the damage done and pretended all was well.
My emotions quickly went from hurt to anger to isolation.
Hurt: Why would she do that? She knows how important this is to me! I guess she doesn’t care about the things that are dear to me.
Anger: I can’t believe she has the audacity to break my stuff and not even confess! What kind of a friend is that? What if I did that to her?
Isolation: Well, her true character has been revealed and I don’t need a friend like that!
Second, another close friend (a different one), called me every day for a week. She was having issues at her job and needed to talk. From the moment the conversations started it was all about her. I would listen and attempt to interject every once in a while with a bit of advice. After all, that was what she was calling me for, wasn’t it? Several days later, I called her hoping for some encouragement about a situation I was experiencing. Guess who didn’t have any time to listen to me?
Hurt: Wow, I’ve been there for her so many times. I’m constantly affirming her and offering encouragement. Is my life so uninteresting and unimportant that she can’t return the favor?
Anger: All she does is talk about herself and she can’t even keep quiet for a second to hear about my life! What kind of a friend is that?
Isolation: Well, if she has no time for me then I have no time for her either.
Third, another friend of mine had a get together with some ladies from church and didn’t invite me.When she discovered that I found out, she came to me full of excuses about why she hadn’t extended me an invitation. I forgave her to her face. But in my heart, I was bitter.
Hurt: I’m her friend! Why wouldn’t she want me there? Am I that awful to have around?
Anger: How could she do such an evil thing? How about I do it to her and see how it makes her feel!
Isolation: Well, if she doesn’t want me around I’ll make sure I’m not.
A few weeks after all these things happened, it occurred to me that I had not spoken to a single person outside of my family for what seemed like ages. I was cranky, irritable and negative. I was constantly complaining about the offenses I had suffered and I was beginning to get on my own nerves.
One day the Holy Spirit turned a light on for me. I realized that the negative actions of other people were causing me to withdraw myself from relationships. I was making subconscious decisions to avoid close interactions with others because somehow people always seemed to cause me pain.
I thought long and hard about this and suddenly my past came before. My mind was bombarded with memories of relationships gone bad because of my tendency to retract when seemingly “wronged.” I saw my own tendency to offend others and mistreat those close to me.
I could not continue on in this pattern.
This is so totally opposite of how Jesus Himself functioned in relationships. If I am to be more like Him (the goal of my faith), then I had and still have some major maturing to do when it comes to productively relating to the people around me.
Looking at the life of the Lord and perceiving how He “did” relationships has given me insight and inspiration to, ultimately, give of myself without expecting anything in return.
Jesus gave and forgave. He listened and spoke. He loved people and hated sin. He progressed despite His opposition and ultimately gave His life for those who scorned Him. Imagine if He retracted from relationships because His feelings were hurt! He certainly would never have made it to the cross.
Instead He powered onward, loving fiercely and giving His life for people riddled with insecurities, impure motives and selfish desires. People who denied His identity, lied to Him, mocked Him, used Him and doubted Him. People who could give nothing to Him in return for what He gave them.
People just like me.
His example exhorts me to forget all of the petty offenses laid against me. His template for relationships inspires me to STOP considering the reactions of others when determining my own actions; to be utterly free from the fear of rejection, the grip of anger and the snare of hurt.
To grasp the true heart of God when He commanded, “Freely you have received, NOW FREELY GIVE.”
What would my life look like if I never took offense?
I want that.