Where is all that anger coming from?
Anger is the emotion we feel when we’ve been wronged. If your boss calls you a stupid dim-wit, you’ll feel some anger.
Under the anger lies hurt. It hurts our ego when our boss calls us a stupid dim-wit.
If that’s the first time our boss has shown that kind of disrespect, we may feel a sting of pain (hurt) along with a spark of anger (emotion).
But if it’s the 5,936th time our boss has shown animosity toward us, we will feel a deeper stab of pain (deeper hurt) along with a raging howl of anger (greater emotion) over the frustration of having to deal with demeaning treatment for a long time.
Anger isn’t a bad emotion. It’s just an emotion. What we do with it can be either positive or negative. Anger may give us the motivation necessary to make some changes in our lives. Maybe we need to get a new job. Maybe we need to learn healthy boundaries and how to stick up for ourselves.
If that same anger causes us to lace our boss’s coffee with arsenic, that’s not good. Or if we turn around and passive-aggressively sabatoge a project we’re in charge of just to get him back, that’s again, not good.
When we respond in negative ways to the hurts others do to us, we disrespect ourselves. We show that we are still children who think we have no choices. But the fact is, we are adults who DO have choices. They may not always be comfortable choices, but we do have them. We can choose to act constructively or destructively. When we act destructively, it’s often because we believe we are trapped and don’t have any better options.
When the hurt comes from someone we should be able to trust
When your parent or sibling or spouse or child treats you like a thing to be used, that hurts more deeply for two reasons. First, they supposedly know you the most intimately, and if THEY think you are less than poop, then maybe you aren’t very valuable. Maybe you don’t count for anything.
If THEY don’t want to hear you or respect your voice, maybe it’s truly not worth hearing or respecting.
Wow, does that cut deep. Human beings absolutely NEED to be heard and valued in order to survive emotionally. We need this the way we need food and drink.
Second, most normal humans open up and are vulnerable with those closest to them. We hope and trust we can be ourselves and still be loved. When those closest to us don’t show love or respect for us, we feel betrayed at the very core of our being. We can no longer trust them, and we shut down to protect ourselves.
So just as this hurt from the people closest to us slices more viscerally into our guts, so the emotion of anger grows proportionately over time into a powerful tsunami. When an abuse target begins to wake up to the reality of how she has been actually treated for so many years, all that rage comes crashing down on her, spilling out on everyone around her for a while.
Guess what? That’s normal. That means she is alive and kicking. That means she is no longer sick and anemic and unable to move in any direction. The anger imbibes her with new life and energy to SURVIVE. When self-righteous people shame her for being exactly the way God created her to be—a normal human—they need a serious kick in their uptight little butts. (My anger inspires me to write.)
So you’re feeling angry because you’ve been relegated to the status of a nothing in the eyes of people in your life? And you feel guilty about that? Don’t. Remember that ANYBODY put in the same situation will feel angry. They may not show it the ways you do. They may let it out in covert, passive aggressive ways. They may stuff it and become depressed. They may murder themselves or someone else. Or they may take it out on everyone around them.
But anger over hurt is normal.
So what do YOU do about it?
You can’t control what others do with their anger, but you can certainly control what you do with yours. I recommend digging deeper to uncover the hurt that lies below all that anger. Get a good counselor or therapist. Try EMDR therapy to process past or present trauma. Get to know yourself so you can face off with the pain and deal with it in healthy ways.
Accept it. Quit running from it. Sit with it. Ask yourself questions about it. Journal about it. Don’t let people shame you into hiding from the truth. Shame disappears when you expose the crap in your life, not when you keep it covered up.
Recognize that you have choices and exercise your adult rights to make choices that will nourish you rather than choices that will enable destructive people to continue using you.
Sometimes we think we’re being so nice when we let people walk all over us. Yet inside we seethe with rage over their indifference and how they use and discard us.
That’s not truly being nice. That’s being fearful and childish. Adults don’t let people walk all over them. Adults don’t look for the approval of their mommies and daddies the ways kids do. If you’re still doing that, consider this. What if you made some steps toward growing up into your own? You’ll make a lot of parasites angry, but you’ll respect yourself more, AND you’ll attract other adults into your life while the grown up children in your life will scurry away to find someone more easy to bully.
And the final thing you do when you’re angry is forgive. Let go. Let’s talk about that for a minute, because I don’t believe it’s what a lot of Christians think it is.
What does the process of forgiveness look like?
How many of you were told you were unforgiving? Bitter? Angry? What does it mean to forgive?
The fact that forgiveness is needed implies that something has been taken from someone. When you are an abuse target, you’ve had many things taken from you. Your voice. Your personhood. Your dignity. Your money. Your safety. Your freedom. Your opportunity to be loved. Your career. Your truth. Your past. Your emotions. Your ability to think clearly. Your dreams. And many other opportunities both tangible and intangible.
Forgiveness is letting go of your right to “make things right” and letting the other guy off the hook. He doesn’t owe you anything anymore. You FORGIVE his debt to you for taking all those things away.
See, you can actually forgive without the other person ever acknowledging they took anything at all from you! The fact is, your abuser owes you, big time. The other fact is, they won’t ever admit it. And the last fact is, they will pay out the nose one day. To be a daughter of GOD means letting Him dole out the appropriate justice. “Vengeance is Mine” and all that.
But you? You don’t need to worry your weary heart over that. You get to forgive the debt and move forward. Vengeance is a waste. It’s a heavy burden in and of itself. It drains you of the emotional energy better directed toward your healing and moving forward into all the future opportunities you’ve previously missed out on because of him. You’ve got catching up to do! Letting go of the desire to have your vengeance is freeing.
So forgiveness is you saying, “Hey, abuser. You stole from me, and you owe me what you stole with interest. But I’m forgiving you the debt and moving on. Good-bye!”
And guess what? Forgiveness isn’t a one time thing. You don’t just say “I forgive you” and all the emotions fade away. That’s a ridiculous idealistic notion not rooted in reality. Forgiveness is something God does in you, and it’s a process that can take a long time depending on the level of the abuse or wrong done.
If someone bumps into you at work, you can forgive them easily. If they hit you, you will have a harder time forgiving them. If they kill your child, you may spend a lifetime dealing with forgiveness. You may think you’ve forgiven one day – and then something will trigger you and all that hurt and rage will rear up and howl at you, threatening your stability.
That’s what the gospel is for. Jesus died for that. He loves you. He gets it. Let Him do His work in you over the course of time. If others don’t understand and can’t handle the process, that’s their problem.
Here’s what forgiveness is NOT:
It’s not, “Hey abuser, you stole from me, and I’m going to be a good girl and let you keep stealing from me over and over and over again until I’m six feet under and you can’t get anything out of me anymore. Why? Because I FORGIVE YOU.”
That’s what many Christians will try to tell you it means. “Forgive and forget.” Because if you forget that they stole your dignity yesterday, you’ll let them do it again today. They love that. They are counting on you to do exactly that because it makes them feel better about themselves to tear you down. They feel big when you are small. “So forgive, damn it!”
If a person kept loaning money to someone who never paid it back, they have one of three choices. They can keep willingly loaning the money and expect to continue doing so forever, thereby making the negligent recipient happily growing in greed and irresponsibility. OR they can keep loaning the money with resentment in their heart, hoping for payback one day. OR they can stop loaning the money, forgive the debt, and tell the money sucker to go somewhere else to get free money in the future.
Which one is the wiser of the three? Proverbs has a lot to say on this subject.
So again, here’s what forgiveness IS:
It’s you forgiving the debt they owe you and then making sure you don’t give them anymore of yourself. It’s “Fine, you took that from me, but the rest of my life will not be poured into black holes in space.”
Putting it all together so you can FLY FREE!
- Your anger over being mistreated, and your anger over watching others be mistreated is normal. If you weren’t angry about that, your pulse might be a bit on the weak side, which is another problem for a therapist.
- Your anger, in and of itself, isn’t bad. You can use the energy your anger gives you to destroy those around you OR you can use it as a powerful motivator to make some serious changes in your life.
- If you decide to make those changes, you’ll need to take it a step further and forgive the ones who have thrown you under the bus over and over again. That doesn’t mean continuing to present yourself as a sacrificial lamb for them to suck dry.
- It does mean forgiving the debt they owe you for stealing your life away. Once you’ve let them go, you are then free to spread your wings and fly into your own wholesome, healthy future.
- You are free to grow up into the fullness of all God created you to be.
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