But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:22-24)
We just heard that being angry and calling people names is a ‘no-no’. According to Jesus, you could either end up being hauled into court for slander or sweltering in the heat of Hell. The only thing for us to do is forgive those who may have angered us. But that isn’t all that easy.
Anger and forgiveness seem to be great opposites, and in many ways they are. You may be surprised to learn, however, that they also have a lot in common. Anger has to be acknowledged and released before you get to move on to forgiveness. Forgiveness has to be fully understood before you can let go of resentments and be emotionally whole and free.
It all starts with love. We are born with the need to love and be loved, and no one, even the best parents, can meet that need perfectly. Therefore we all feel hurt as a natural part of life; and there are also those hurts caused by abuse, abandonment and neglect.
From these hurts, fear and anger naturally emerge. It makes perfect sense to be angry when you’re hurt. Anger is an important emotion to have, you just don’t want to wallow in it. Here is where forgiveness comes in.
Forgiveness is the process of letting go of anger and resentment so that you can go on with your life.
Forgiveness is for you, not for the forgiven.
Anger and forgiveness seem opposite; anger involves an intense focus on the “wrongdoer,” and forgiveness involves shifting focus off of that person onto moving on with your life. Yet there are some ways that anger and forgiveness are the same.
When you are angry at someone and blaming them, you are judging them, practicing “one-up-manship”. This is the hazard of the “blame game.” When you are into blaming others for your feelings, situation or plight, you are making yourself a victim and denying your own power and responsibility to control your reaction.
Here are some important truths to remember when you’re angry:
- The other person is responsible for his/her actions that triggered your anger. You are not responsible for their behavior.
- You are responsible for your emotional reaction and for your actions that result from your emotional reaction. The persons causing the hurt are not responsible for your emotional reactions or your behavior that results.
Anger is one of the most misunderstood emotion. Most people think it is bad. . . wrong. . . Unchristian.
However, it can be healthy when it is a result of being injured or hurt. After all, Jesus got angry when he found that the temple had been turned into a marketplace. He went around the temple turning over all the tables and throwing the people out! That was healthy anger.
Healthy anger is:
- A response when you are threatened or opposed
- A protective emotion
- Powerful energy that can be used for positive outcomes
- Reason to take positive action
Have you ever taken action about something that made you angry? Think about MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. They got mad, and took action as a result of the pain felt with the death their children by drunk drivers. This was healthy anger turned into action.
Are you angry at someone right now? What did they do? What did they say? Do you have unresolved anger that is affecting your lives?
Don’t you think it is time to let go of that anger so you can move onto forgiveness and a happier life?
Next week we will talk about forgiveness and how to move from your anger to peace of mind.
I leave you with a traditional Gaelic blessing that never fails to bring me peace of mind:
- Deep peace of the running waves to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the shades of night to you,
Moon and stars always giving light to you.
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church, 13 February 2011