You Can’t Compartmentalize Anger

No273 13 Oct 2009 Sneeze 

It may not be cold season, but I keep the antibacterial gel always handy especially when someone sneezes near me! I don’t want to catch their cold and I’m not going to chalk it up to allergies. In much the same way our anger and bitterness can infect our lives.

I’m not saying that we pass bitterness along by “sneezing,” but I am saying that we can’t compartmentalize our anger.

I’ve been reminded of this fact lately because I’ve been scouring my old journals from the “messy marriage” years, and the thing I’m noticing is how my anger and the many ways I was unforgiving toward my spouse infected so many other areas and relationships in my life. 

Not only was I prone to get my feathers ruffled much more by just about anyone, but I also was paranoid—fearful—of their acceptance of me. This created a lot of dysfunctional relationships in my life at that time.

I’m certainly not 100% free of dysfunction or anger now. But I was struck by just how different my life and relationships are currently—free of the infection of bitterness. And the reason I’m better now is because I didn’t bury my anger. I worked very hard to …

  • Work through a thorough forgiveness process.
  • Change my perspective to one of extending Christ’s grace.
  • Intentionally be grateful in the good and especially the “bad.”

Even my relationship with God has really deepened and grown since I’ve worked through those resentments. I think doing the tasks I mentioned above was both a catalyst for spiritual growth, as well as, a result of pursuing God more completely.

Maybe you feel weighed down—even infected—by bitterness towards someone. If you do and it’s been present for any length of time, then I’m certain your outlook and other relationships are being “infected” as well. Am I right?

There really is hope, if you’re serious about surrendering your wounded heart to God. Begin to do some of the things I’ve listed above. In fact, I offer a forgiveness coaching program through my life-coaching practice – HopeRenewedCoach.com where I can walk with you through some specific tasks and processing.  I offer a more that 40% discount on the 3 month package to those who mention “MM Discount” in the contact form at my coaching site.

And if coaching is not something you’re ready for or interested in, then begin by reading a good book on forgiveness. I list some here. Most of all, begin to daily connect with God. You can read how to get that started here. And if you’ve never received Christ’s forgiveness and salvation then find out how to do that here.

Most of all, let me know how I can pray for you in this area, and I will be sure to lift you up as I do many others who struggle with “messy” issues in life and marriage.

How have you approached forgiveness in your life?

What has been helpful for you?

 

“He {Christ} himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” –1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

Photo by mcfarlandmo

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Linking up with – NOBH, Momma Notes, Marriage Moments Monday, Making Your Home Sing Monday, Matrimonial Monday, Playdates with God and Marriage Monday’s

  • ah, the bitterness will eat us alive … and the bitter root will yield bitter fruit. we’ve gotta let it go, let it go, let it go … and thankfully, we’re not the judge of the world.

    • And thankfully the “Judge” of the world is right and merciful in all His ways! Thanks so much for your support here, Linda. I truly appreciate it, my friend!

  • lorihatcher

    I received some great advice when I was a newlywed. A wise married lady told me that the majority of our disagreements wouldn’t be over convictions, but over preferences and, most often, selfishness. When I learned to evaluate what made me angry in that context, I often realized it was more of an issue with me than an issue with him. . . hm. . . This advice has helped me a lot through the years.

    • Very wise words!

    • I agree with Sheila, Lori. Your friend’s words are very wise and I think I’ll tuck them away in my heart for the next time I’m faced with a disagreement. Thanks for sharing and coming by to encourage me!

  • Anger and resentment crept in on me subtly but thank God He did not live me. When God brought it to my notice I chose, though very painfully to let go, open my heart to my husband and love my husband like God commands. Forgiveness frees the giver and opens doors that would have been locked against him or her forever!

    • You’re so right, Ugochi. Satan is deceptive and our anger creeps in almost unnoticed–at least as an “enemy.” I know I thought anger was my ally, but never realized the devastation my bitter thoughts were doing in my life until Christ woke me up. Yes, in forgiveness there is freedom! And thankfully it is through Christ’s forgiveness that we can truly be free!

  • It can be so hard to admit that we are the ones who must change our perspective, attitude and heart when we feel so strongly that the other person was “in the wrong.” Even once I admit the anger and bitterness is negatively impacting my life, I have found it to be a struggle to forgive and move forward. Time and prayer have been my allies in that regard. A great topic Beth. Forgiveness provides such peace and healthier relationships all the way around.

    • Yes, Kim. We feel so wounded and in that pain, we feel weak. But it is only through acknowledging our wrongs and “weaknesses” that Christ can truly set us free. Thanks so much for stopping by and weighing in. Your support here is treasured, my friend!

  • Sometimes when I read your posts, Beth, I feel like I could have written them! From one wounded sista to another, great job!

    • Awww, that’s so sweet, Sheila! I do think we have much that is in common. I even felt as if your post today was along the same lines as mine today. Thank you for your sweet words and friendship!

  • sarah

    Anger can take root and turn hearts into ick. Thank you for the reminder to cultivate forgiveness and start fresh each day.

    Kinda enjoying our momma notes. I do hope you’ll come on over and link up again. Slip your fave recipe, notes of encouragement, birthday pics, all things gloriously mom, into the link up. Just moms. Sharing our notes. Creating a melody.

    http://justsarahdawn.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-new-to-do.html

    Be blessed bunches,

    Sarah

    • Ha! “Ick” is a good word for it, Sarah. Thanks so much for stopping by to encourage me and inviting me to your link-up! I’ll be there every week that I can!

  • Mia

    Dear Beth
    I had a completely wrong idea of forgiveness once and that made it very difficult for me, but I have learned that forgiveness does not mean a restored relationship; it means that you don’t hold anything against that person anymore. That helped me a lot. True relationship and trust is not something we can do; it is something that needs to be cultivated with love.
    Blessings
    Mia

    • Yes, there really are some dangerous myths out there about forgiveness, Mia. That makes me think that might be a good subject for a future post. 🙂 I’m so glad you were able to discover the truth and truly forgive those who’ve hurt you. It’s just so freeing and healing!

  • God’s Character

    Anger is so funny in that it does not always manifest itself as rage which we usually think of when we hear about anger. But it can also show up,in what we like to call “frustrated with you”, “disappointed in you”, “taking some space from you”. This is the way I have held on to a lot of anger in the past and like you said, it really does negatively affect all other relationships and aspects of your life. But like you I am allowing God to take all the anger that I had cloaked in other “feelings” and replace it with His love.

    • You bring up a good point–we often don’t identify our emotions as “anger” per se. Years ago my husband would ask me if I was angry and I would say that I was “upset.” For some reason that felt better to me. It sounded less aggressive, I suppose, but it was “anger!” There wasn’t a way to pretty it up! 🙂 Thanks for sharing so vulnerably and bringing up an interesting angle to the conversation, my friend!

  • wonderful post Beth.
    I think realizing that the person that has been forgiven much (ought to) love much has helped me grow in this area. It’s easy to ‘justify’ and rationalize my thoughts and feelings yet when I consider the things Christ has forgiven and cleansed me from, holding on to slights and faults becomes even more juvenile and sinful (if there was such a thing!). Doesn’t make it easy, but it helps clear up my foggy view and God helps me towards the best road – the one of forgiveness.

    • Yes, that’s something that has really helped me to forgive too, Ngina. When we recognize how much our sin cost Christ, it really puts the sins others do to us in perspective. I also like that you say “it doesn’t make it easy” because we all want a magic bullet, don’t we? 🙂 Thanks so much for your wise words here and for supporting me here in this place, my friend.

  • Fawn @ Happy Wives Club

    What has been helpful for me in approaching forgiveness is to keep at the forefront of my mind all my failings and shortcomings. And also presuming innocence on the part of the person who did something to hurt me knowing I’ve probably unknowingly done the same at some point to some one. I don’t want to be judged so I do my best not to judge.

    • Yes, that really brings us back down to reality, doesn’t it, Fawn? When we see ourselves as humans that make mistakes, it makes it so much easier to extend grace to others. Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, my friend!

  • rboerner

    As you know, I am completing a small group study on Emotional Fitness and we have discussed the ANGER emotion and it is actually NOT a primary emotion – we need to get in touch with our true feelings because anger is secondary. There are so many areas that actually need forgiveness so “the infection” of anger doesn’t take hold of us. I have walked through the forgiveness process in different areas of my life and I can not express enough how much healing has taken place in these specific areas.

    • You bring up an important point, Becky. We really need to peel back the layers and see what is beneath our anger. That can give us greater insight into what’s going on in the relationship that’s a problem. And yes, forgiveness is the most important task in all of this. It has helped me to heal so much as well. Thanks for coming by and adding to the discussion, girlfriend!

  • rboerner

    As you know, I am completing a small group study on Emotional Fitness and we have discussed the ANGER emotion and it is actually NOT a primary emotion – we need to get in touch with our true feelings because anger is secondary. There are so many areas that actually need forgiveness so “the infection” of anger doesn’t take hold of us. I have walked through the forgiveness process in different areas of my life and I can not express enough how much healing has taken place in these specific areas.

  • We are on the same wavelength … I did not do any online reading yesterday, thereby missing your posted topic, and posted on bitterness today, myself!
    We have a young wife in our congregation whom I have recently learned is giving up on her marriage, and in doing some background work, learned that bitterness has loomed large. This is what prompted my writing.
    Your points about forgiveness and grace and thanksgiving all make the difference. The person fully engulfed in bitterness will have a hard time seeing it — that’s the major hurdle, from my own experience. Justification allows us to rule out our own frailty or fault in the situation. Evil lurks in justification — and that’s how bitterness continues.
    Great topic, Beth (if I do say so myself)!

    • Yes, you bring up an important point, Amy. When we are angry we often don’t see how angry we are or even what we are angry about sometimes. We may interpret our interactions with others as tense because we “feel stressed,” when there’s a direct correlation to the anger we’re holding on to from another relationship. And yes, “justification” really halts growth and insight into our part of the problem. Thanks for the great insights you’ve added to the discussion, my friend!

  • We are on the same wavelength … I did not do any online reading yesterday, thereby missing your posted topic, and posted on bitterness today, myself!
    We have a young wife in our congregation whom I have recently learned is giving up on her marriage, and in doing some background work, learned that bitterness has loomed large. This is what prompted my writing.
    Your points about forgiveness and grace and thanksgiving all make the difference. The person fully engulfed in bitterness will have a hard time seeing it — that’s the major hurdle, from my own experience. Justification allows us to rule out our own frailty or fault in the situation. Evil lurks in justification — and that’s how bitterness continues.
    Great topic, Beth (if I do say so myself)!

  • Nan

    Oh yes, I would totally agree that that bitterness and anger is going to spill out into other areas of our lives. Not only that, it is poison to our hearts. Robs us of our joy and steals our peace.

    I went through many, many long and painful years of infertility (both primary and secondary). And so I understand those moments of feeling angry toward God and bitter towards those who have children, although I didn’t feel that way myself so I was able to enjoy my friends and their children.

    But I have known women who are so hurting or bitter that they literally cannot bring themselves to be around children. I was out with a bunch of women once and one of the gals brought her newborn.

    One woman, struggling with infertility and mad at God, was furious and jumped up and walked off mad because this woman “dared” to bring her baby with her to dinner. The woman didn’t know that the other gal couldn’t have children and wasn’t doing anything wrong in any case.

    But this other gal has wrapped her anger and bitterness around her all the years I’ve known her, and she has missed out on so many things. We have talked and she knows she needs to reconcile that anger and bitterness, for it really DOES spill out onto other things and other people and it leads to a lot of unhappiness for her.

    Thanks for hosting today, my friend.

    • Ooh, you give a great example of how anger can take over our lives. And when we hold anger against God it really accelerates the “infection,” in my opinion. I’m so glad that you were able to minister to that woman and she’s taking steps to deal with it. Thanks for your encouragement here, Nan. I appreciate it!

  • Nan

    Oh yes, I would totally agree that that bitterness and anger is going to spill out into other areas of our lives. Not only that, it is poison to our hearts. Robs us of our joy and steals our peace.

    I went through many, many long and painful years of infertility (both primary and secondary). And so I understand those moments of feeling angry toward God and bitter towards those who have children, although I didn’t feel that way myself so I was able to enjoy my friends and their children.

    But I have known women who are so hurting or bitter that they literally cannot bring themselves to be around children. I was out with a bunch of women once and one of the gals brought her newborn.

    One woman, struggling with infertility and mad at God, was furious and jumped up and walked off mad because this woman “dared” to bring her baby with her to dinner. The woman didn’t know that the other gal couldn’t have children and wasn’t doing anything wrong in any case.

    But this other gal has wrapped her anger and bitterness around her all the years I’ve known her, and she has missed out on so many things. We have talked and she knows she needs to reconcile that anger and bitterness, for it really DOES spill out onto other things and other people and it leads to a lot of unhappiness for her.

    Thanks for hosting today, my friend.

  • Do you ever struggle to forgive yourself? I do sometimes, which is just as ridiculous and ignoring God’s command to forgive others, isn’t it? I’m finding that the more grace I have for myself, the easier it is to prevent crabby or hurtful attitudes from seeping into my other relationships as well. Especially in marriage – I remind myself we are two faulty people, equally imperfect.

    • There’s actually a line of thought among Christian psychologists and theologians that says “you can’t forgive yourself.” I feel like it’s simply a semantic issue, but I’m still trying to sort out where I fall on the whole issue.

      But I do feel like we can blame ourselves and hold ourselves responsible for things that are many times beyond our control. So, I took the long way around explaining, but yes. I think you can blame yourself and get caught in a spiral of regret and shame. Certainly, since God forgives us, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone–including ourselves!

      I’m all about learning to tap into God’s grace as well! His grace is so much better than any psuedo-kindness I may try to extend. Now, if I can just learn to get out of God’s way! 😉 Thanks for stopping by and weighing in, Becky! I appreciate it!

  • Do you ever struggle to forgive yourself? I do sometimes, which is just as ridiculous and ignoring God’s command to forgive others, isn’t it? I’m finding that the more grace I have for myself, the easier it is to prevent crabby or hurtful attitudes from seeping into my other relationships as well. Especially in marriage – I remind myself we are two faulty people, equally imperfect.

  • You bring up an important point, Becky. We really need to peel back the layers and see what is beneath our anger. That can give us greater insight into what’s going on in the relationship that’s a problem. And yes, forgiveness is the most important task in all of this. It has helped me to heal so much as well. Thanks for coming by and adding to the discussion, girlfriend!

  • Yes, you bring up an important point, Amy. When we are angry we often don’t see how angry we are or even what we are angry about sometimes. We may interpret our interactions with others as tense because we “feel stressed,” when there’s a direct correlation to the anger we’re holding on to from another relationship. And yes, “justification” really halts growth and insight into our part of the problem. Thanks for the great insights you’ve added to the discussion, my friend!

  • Ooh, you give a great example of how anger can take over our lives. And when we hold anger against God it really accelerates the “infection,” in my opinion. I’m so glad that you were able to minister to that woman and she’s taking steps to deal with it. Thanks for your encouragement here, Nan. I appreciate it!

  • There’s actually a line of thought among Christian psychologists and theologians that says “you can’t forgive yourself.” I feel like it’s simply a semantic issue, but I’m still trying to sort out where I fall on the whole issue.

    But I do feel like we can blame ourselves and hold ourselves responsible for things that are many times beyond our control. So, I took the long way around explaining, but yes. I think you can blame yourself and get caught in a spiral of regret and shame. Certainly, since God forgives us, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone–including ourselves!

    I’m all about learning to tap into God’s grace as well! His grace is so much better than any psuedo-kindness I may try to extend. Now, if I can just learn to get out of God’s way! 😉 Thanks for stopping by and weighing in, Becky! I appreciate it!

  • Rhiannon

    I don’t believe there will ever come a time when I will be completely free of anger, however, I don’t have to give into anger. I like that you are thankful for the good and the bad stuff. All that is is worthy of gratitude. Even our own anger I suppose. It’s a teacher for me, whenever I give into anger and let it take me over I regret it. It takes more and more to rouse me and I think that’s a very good thing. Thank you for a very inspiring blog.

  • Rhiannon

    I don’t believe there will ever come a time when I will be completely free of anger, however, I don’t have to give into anger. I like that you are thankful for the good and the bad stuff. All that is is worthy of gratitude. Even our own anger I suppose. It’s a teacher for me, whenever I give into anger and let it take me over I regret it. It takes more and more to rouse me and I think that’s a very good thing. Thank you for a very inspiring blog.

  • Sarah

    How you crazy bless so many … thanks bunches for splashing around with us at momma notes. Lacing up for the race … hope you’ll join us in cheering other moms on.

    http://www.justsarahdawn.blogspot.com

  • Sarah

    How you crazy bless so many … thanks bunches for splashing around with us at momma notes. Lacing up for the race … hope you’ll join us in cheering other moms on.

    http://www.justsarahdawn.blogspot.com

  • Beth, beautiful post! Way to go for working through the forgiveness/extending grace process and letting go of bitterness! Sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress, and I pray God will continue helping you to grow in this area.

    My husband taught me the biggest lesson about forgiveness and grace before we were married and we were just dating. We had only been going out about a month or so and I had found something out about him that worried me. Instead of talking to him about it, I avoided him and told him I didn’t want to speak to him. I kept it up for days and even considered breaking up with him. Talk about sabotaging the relationship!

    I remember when it finally hit me how cruel I had been, and how I needed to talk with him. When I called him and asked him to come over, he came running to meet me, hugged me, and told me how much he cared about me. Tears came to my eyes. After all I had put him through, the needless worry and fear that I was breaking up with him, my careless and cruel treatment of him by avoiding a conversation that could’ve fixed everything – he still wanted to be with me, cared about me, and called me beautiful. I felt so special and loved – like the prodigal son must’ve felt like when his father rushed out to meet him on the road even after all he had done. That night I got a glimpse into Adam’s heart, but even more excitingly, I got a glimpse into the character of God.

    Every time I struggle with anger, frustration, or the temptation to give into unforgiveness, I have to remind myself of that night which seems so long ago – and just how deep Adam’s love is for me.

    Thank you for linking up with Becoming His Eve Marriage Moments Mondays!

  • Beth, beautiful post! Way to go for working through the forgiveness/extending grace process and letting go of bitterness! Sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress, and I pray God will continue helping you to grow in this area.

    My husband taught me the biggest lesson about forgiveness and grace before we were married and we were just dating. We had only been going out about a month or so and I had found something out about him that worried me. Instead of talking to him about it, I avoided him and told him I didn’t want to speak to him. I kept it up for days and even considered breaking up with him. Talk about sabotaging the relationship!

    I remember when it finally hit me how cruel I had been, and how I needed to talk with him. When I called him and asked him to come over, he came running to meet me, hugged me, and told me how much he cared about me. Tears came to my eyes. After all I had put him through, the needless worry and fear that I was breaking up with him, my careless and cruel treatment of him by avoiding a conversation that could’ve fixed everything – he still wanted to be with me, cared about me, and called me beautiful. I felt so special and loved – like the prodigal son must’ve felt like when his father rushed out to meet him on the road even after all he had done. That night I got a glimpse into Adam’s heart, but even more excitingly, I got a glimpse into the character of God.

    Every time I struggle with anger, frustration, or the temptation to give into unforgiveness, I have to remind myself of that night which seems so long ago – and just how deep Adam’s love is for me.

    Thank you for linking up with Becoming His Eve Marriage Moments Mondays!