Mailbag: Conquering Anger

 

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

– Psalm 145:8, KJV

wpid-img_20150904_153341.jpg

Hi DM. I still have a lot of anger toward my mother-in-law for many of the same reasons you had for your father-in-law. She has enabled my stbx’s sin so much that even my children have called her out on it. I’ve noticed that my anger will die down for a while and I think I am on my way to forgiving her and then I will suddenly be full blown angry at her again. I would love to conquer this anger but is taking time. I don’t see much anger in your posts and know you are much further along on this journey than I am. What helped you conquer the anger?

-BrokenHearted Believer (Comment on post: “I didn’t have the words…” )

wpid-img_20150625_161827.jpg

Dear BHB,

It took time and much prayer for me to get to the place where I was not filled with rage towards my ex-father-in-law. When wounds are that deep and wrongs are that strong, it is unrealistic to expect the anger to vanish overnight or the pain to suddenly be gone. These are deep, deep soul wounds that take time and conscious care to heal.

Two years or so ago, I doubt I would have been able to write what I wrote yesterday as I was still very angry with him over what had happened. Honestly, I am no longer angry with him now–for the most part–but rather pity him for the place his decisions has landed him–i.e. a father who directly involved himself in destroying his daughter’s marriage. Now, I look back at that time almost as if I am reading a history book noting interesting things that I had missed while living the events.

How does one get to that point where anger isn’t so strong anymore?

1. Acknowledge the anger. It does no good pretending one is not angry when one is furious. Anger is neither good or bad. It is an emotion. It is a gift. God has anger. But He is “slow to anger.”

2. Recognize the sources of the anger. It is helpful to enumerate or list out what caused such a strong reaction. What did this person do that illicit anger in you? Was my ego just bruised or did they do something substantively wrong? Writing it out engages the mind and whole body. It also helps in the next step.

3. Accept what happened did indeed happen and was wrong. This is akin to not agreeing with a cheater’s lies about your character and their whole retroactive marriage narrative. The list helps to ground you in this step. It speaks to the reality that they violated your boundaries. Whether the person recognizes it or not, those historical facts remain.

This realization can take some of the intensity out of the anger as you walk in confidence over what happened and no longer need the validation of their agreement on such things. It gives you permission to no longer engage in the argument over alternate realities. Plus, only when you are at this place of acceptance are you ready to let it go to God in choosing forgiveness.

What is hidden or denied cannot be healed by the light or given over to God.

4. Recognize that an apology may never come from the perpetrator. This is a tough one. It flies in the face of one’s personal sense of justice. In a just world, they would apologize to you for what they did to you and seek to make amends.

Sadly, this world is not just. It is broken by sin.

God gives free choice–i.e. we are free to either choose sin or to choose godliness. This person may choose to remain in sin. They may choose not to apology and attempt to heal the relationship they damaged through their sin. God allows them to make that choice. So, we must as well trusting in God’s wisdom and ultimate justice.

5. Choose to forgive or hand them over to God. Then repeat. And repeat again. Sometimes I would raise my hands up as if nailing these sins on the Cross. It was something I did when the anger waves hit me. This prophetic act reminded me not to ruminate or become bitter as I reaffirmed my choice to give them over to God in forgiveness.

The anger dissipated over time as I no longer needed their agreement or their apology. By choosing repeatedly to give them to God, I was able to reinforce that this was God’s problem now and not mine. But it took time to get to this place both in accepting what happened was wrong, accepting my anger as okay, and accepting his choice not to apologize.

I hope this helps.

Blessings on your journey,

-DM

PS I also recommend breaking the curses or lies they spoke over you in prayer. This can be done by affirming the truth. You are never responsible for your spouse’s adultery. They are 100% responsible for his/her own sin before God. It is a lie if the in-laws or ex-in-laws said otherwise.

1 thought on “Mailbag: Conquering Anger”

  1. DM- Thank you for the kind, thorough, and thoughtful response. I feel I’ve done a lot of what you recommended but I just need to be more patient with myself and give it some time, like you said. I find I do much better with the anger when I have no contact so once the legal stuff is over I think it will speed up some of the healing. Again, thank you!

Comments are closed.