Updated: Oct 30, 2019
I'll never forget this moment as long as I will live.
She picked me up from my house where I lived with two friends near LSU's campus. She had said she wanted to talk. I had actually been in a good mood that morning because I had been hanging out more with this guy who I was into (my now husband). I had seen him the night before for a while, and I was really starting to like him.
I got in her car and she drove me around. She finally started talking about my relationship with Beav, accusing me of doing all kinds of inappropriate things with him. I sat there stunned. I had no words. She had no right to reprimand me, first of all. Second of all, she had no idea what she was talking about. She had no idea of any details about my relationship with him. She never once seemed worried about me or that she loved or cared about me. She just accused me in a condescending, judgmental way. And accused me of a lot of things too inappropriate to share here. It was shattering.
I felt so small, so dumb. So inferior.
And I don't like feeling small.
And before I knew it, the anger rose up so quickly in me that I started cursing (quite loudly I might add) in her face. And y'all, I really don't curse. It was like this angry psycho animal came raging out of me.
And I demanded that she take me home. And that moment marked the end of our friendship.
My anger brewed and continue to get hotter and hotter. I told every close friend I had about this. Of course, they were on my side. I blocked her out. Nope, you and me, we're done.
My anger turned into bitterness. A near sense of hatred for her. How could she seriously have thought it was OK to accuse me of those things? Does she even know me?
Until it all was eating me alive, turning me into a cold-hearted, done-with-the-world kind of person.
One day my anger had become too much of a burden to bear. And I started slashing this person apart in my prayer life. Oh, the things I chose to say in the hidden pages of those journals. Whatever came to mind, I said it. No filter. No breaks. I laid it all out before God. With messy, unpolished handwriting that matched my mood.
And you know what God started to do in my heart? He started moving my heart to release this anger at the feet of Jesus. This anger was killing me, and God knew that. I thought about it everytime I had to come in contact with her, which was often. I thought about it for years after that fact. It was a deeply rooted weed that was choking out the beauty and purpose in my life. (NO, I'm seriously not exaggerting)
So I started to tell God all of it, and I chose to release it to him. One day at a time. Until the anger started fading away.
Me and that person, we still are not friends. The process of releasing my anger did not include reconciliation here. It does not always. Be thankful when it does. But regardless of our lack of friendship, I have chosen over the years to release the anger, to forgive, to move forward with my life. It has been incredibly freeing.
Because I did not realize the prison my anger kept me in.
If I had not started that healing journey, no telling where that anger would have led me. The bondage. The chains.
Anger is a tough one to talk about. The church does not always (or has not in the past) done a great job with this emotion.
Don't be angry! Be happy! You are blessed!
You have no right to be angry.
Anger is a sin.
It's wrong to feel it.
God does not like anger.
All of these (and more) are statements that we have heard in the church (or from church people) about anger. You may have even said a few yourself. And honestly, they are messed up. Y'all, for real???
Let's debunk these a bit.
1. Anger is a normal human emotion that we were created to feel. God feels it, and Jesus felt it while he was on the earth. If you don't believe me, go read the Bible from start to finish. You will see his anger sometimes. And friend, God does not expect you to be "happy" all of the time. Is that even the goal of our lives? Should it be? And since when did Christianity require us to mask our true feelings? To walk around all of the time like nothing is ever wrong. He knows and understands that you will feel anger sometimes. And it's OK.
2. Um, P.S., sometimes your anger is justified, friend. Seriously. You were abused as a kid? You can be angry about that. You were cheated on by your spouse? Yep, you can be angry about that. Your kid died suddenly in a tragic accident. It's OK to be angry. Human Trafficking, racism, abortion, genocide, criminal justice, equal rights, etc. Yep, it's ok. Your boss fires you for no reason. Yep. Your child keeps disobeying. Yep. Y'all. Laying down our rights in an important part of the Christian walk. However, that does not mean not feeling anger over injustice to you or someone else. It just means that we lay down our rights to get payback for the wrongs done to us. We give that right over to Jesus, and we let him get the justice we long for.
3. ANGER IS NOT A SIN. I repeat. ANGER IS NOT A SIN. If it were, God would not feel it. He is without sin. But here me out, how we entertain thoughts that contribute to our anger can be sinful. How we respond to and communicate with others about our anger can also be sinful. All the more reason to share it with a God that reorients us when we are disoriented in anger. If an episode of anger is harmful to self or others, then it is not OK. "Be angry, and do not sin" (Psalm 4:4, Ephesians 4:26)
4. It's not wrong to feel anger. You feel it because you are human (at least I think you are). Think of all the amazing things that have happened in the course of history because of an anger that sparked change. But remember, there are some things that are not OK to do in your anger. Namecalling, cursing someone out, yelling, emotionally abusive language. Not OK. Aggression and violence and destruction of property. Not OK. Hurtful passive aggression. Not OK. If you are struggling with knowing how to manage your anger in appropriate ways, seek out a professional counselor to help you on that journey.
5. Well, I do believe that God does not like any response to anger that is hurtful to people or dishonoring to himself. However, He created you as a person in His image with feelings. Those feelings have a purpose, to be used to point more to himself.
Some of the big things that lead to our anger:
The feeling of being small, insignificant, inferior, unimportant
The feeling of being unwanted, not valued
The feeling of being dumb
The feeling of betrayal and hurt.
The feeling of extreme fear.
The feeling of failure.
You name it. They call anger a tip of the iceberg emotion. Anger seems to often be what manifests, but underneath it could really be disappointment, fear, doubt, sadness, rejection.
It is crucial as we learn to share our anger with God to label it honestly and be able to share with God what triggers it.
You know what is supar hard, though, to tell God? If deep within your soul, you are angry with him. We fear he may get angry with us or that He will abandon us if he only knew the thoughts we're thinking toward him. Oh wait, y'all. HE DOES. (Psalm 139) He already knows our thoughts, even if our anger is directed toward him.
But it's OK to tell him this. He can handle the truth of how you feel. But be ready, friend. He will come back with so much truth. The longer we focus on this truth, the more free we can become. But we have to be willing to step back after sharing authentically with God about our anger, and we need to be willing to hear the truth that often contradicts our feelings. And the truth helps with the release. And it is good to be able to release our anger so that it does not take root or keep us in chains.
One Psalm that I would like to highlight here: Psalm 109.
This is a Psalm that you can read and pray through when you feel angry if you are struggling to find your own words. David often prays really honest things in his anger. Some have even thought to throw out these psalms because they don't seem to be what a good Christian needs to think. However, I like that they show us how to be raw in our anger in the safety of the presence of God. And they show us what releasing that anger can look like, like Psalm 109.
The psalm starts out like this:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Be not silent, O God of my praise!
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.
They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.
So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
He goes on to say so much in his anger about these enemies.
Appoint a wicked man against him.
May he be guilty when tried.
May his days be few.
May his children be fatherless.
Let there be none to extend kindness to him.
And a few other pretty harsh statements.
He then explains more of why he is angry with this enemy.
But watch what starts to happen in his prayer.
But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! [Alowing God to get justice, releasing control over the situation to him]
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me.
I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads.
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!
Let them know that this is your hand; you, O LORD, have done it!
Let them curse, but you will bless! They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad!
May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.
David got his anger out. And then he released it to God, letting God take care of the injustice done to him.
And he spoke truth to his anger. The truth that he knew God was going to save him.
Sometimes this is all we can do in our anger. Just be honest with God about it. Why you feel it. All the thoughts that have gone through your head about it.
And watch how he transforms your anger. Watch how naming it, speaking it to Him begins to change it.
I confess that my anger at times has become hurtful to myself
But God, I choose to come to you with it first.
I choose to tell you about my anger.
I choose to show you some of the ugly thoughts I am having about this person.
This anger is chaining me to bitterness.
And I choose to release it to you.
Becasue I can't hold it anymore.
Have justice as you see fit.
And help me forgive.
In Jesus' Name,
Creative Journaling Prompt
On a sheet of paper, write anger in a circle at the center of the page. The write circles that connect to it with each of these areas of focus:
1. Triggers (What makes you angry, what sets your anger off?)
2. Body Responses (How does your body feel when angry- hot, tense, heart racing, etc.)
3. Thoughts (What you are thinking while angry)
4. Responses (How you show that you are angry-whether healthy or unhealthy)
Then pick one trigger that happened recently, and practice praying through that situation. Confess where you need to.