May 18, 2011 by Chris French
This comes from Andy Stanley’s book It Came From Within and our series at Bethel on Wednesday Nights by the same name.
I know I can be angry and not sin (Eph. 4.26). After all Jesus did it (John 2.13-17). In fact if you look closely you might just see how mad He was. He calls God “my” Father here. When He does that other places (John 5.17-18) the Jews correctly understood it to be a claim of Deity. The called Him a blasphemer and tried to kill Him. Here they don’t say a word. They’re too busy running! Anyhow, I know I can be angry and not sin, but I also know it’s really hard since my anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires in my life (James 1.20). All that being said let’s notice some facts about anger and give you a solution to anger so you can lead the type of life that God does desire.
Anger says, “You owe me!” If you look deeply and honestly at the times you’ve been angry you’ll probably notice a consistent theme. You get mad because someone took something from you. That’s where the “You owe me” part comes in just in case you weren’t paying attention earlier. Don’t think that’s true? Go to a playground and watch kids play. You’ll see that they have their own pile of toys and those toys are not shared. When child forces “sharing” onto another child watch out for the eruption. He’s mad because something has been taken from him! Teenagers get mad when their rights are taken away. When you get grounded or your cell phone is taken away a right has been taken away and you get angry. Here’s a little sidenote for future reference. Adults get angry when something is taken from them also. As a matter of fact this idea that I can get angry when my rights are taken away is probably the number 1 contributor to divorce. Check this out: when you say, “I do” you give up your rights. Go back and read Ephesians 5.22-24 ladies. Paul says you’re supposed to submit to your husband like the church submits to Jesus. That means that even though you’ve got some great ideas on how to spice up the worship service you submit to Jesus’ way of doing things. You may feel your ways are better, but you still submit to Him. Wives, you may feel like your desires are more important than your husbands, but Paul says you put your desires on the back-burner and help your husband meet his desires. Don’t be so quick to “Amen” husbands. We should be leading the way in submitting! Read Ephesians 5.25, 28. I’ve got to love my wife like I love myself. I’ll go to great lengths to accomplish my dreams! Paul says when I say, “I do” I’m committing to putting my dreams on the back-burner so I can help my wife accomplish her dreams! We’ll have future posts on this later.
Anger can be sneaky. We see that in marriage and in life. Someone will hurt you and you’ll find that years down the road you’re still seething about how they hurt you. My parents got divorced when I was three years old. I don’t have any memories of my father in my life, but 15 years later I realized that I was very angry with him. Now 25 years later I’m still working the solution to anger: forgiveness! Anger can be very sneaky. You’ll wake up one day and realize that you’ve been mad for as long as you can remember. Another problem with anger is that it’s kind of like a bouncy ball inside a tiny room. You throw the bouncy ball against the wall as hard as you can and it will rebound and hit the next wall and the floor and the ceiling and eventually cover the whole room! Anger’s kind of like that when you let it sit inside you. It’ll start to leak out of the isolated event that made you angry and eventually you’ll have an anger problem. Everything will make you mad.
It’s no big secret that forgiveness is the solution to anger, but saying you forgive someone and actually taking the effort to do so are two different things. There’s a process for forgiveness. You need steps so you know when you’ve accomplished something.
Here are the steps: (1)Find the root cause of your anger. I remember one incident from my childhood when my father said he would spend some time with me playing catch. He never showed up and I was angry. The root cause of my anger was not the fact that he didn’t show up that one time. I was angry that he left in the first place! You’ve got to find the root cause of your anger before you can start to forgive the person who hurt you. To help you figure out the root cause write down every time you’ve felt betrayed by this person. It’s pretty easy to pinpoint who you’re mad at. It’s much harder to pinpoint the root cause of your anger toward them, so write down everything they do that makes you mad and eventually you’ll run across the root cause. You’ll know when you find it because without this one betrayal the other things they’ve done wouldn’t have been as big a deal to you. So the first step is to find the root cause of your anger and make a list of all the incidents that this person has done to anger you.
The second step is figure out what they took from you. Remember you’re angry at this particular person because they took something from you. It’ll be connected to the root cause so once you find that whatever they took from you won’t be too hard to find. Be ready to sift thru a lot of emotions here. This isn’t like the movie Taken with Liam Neeson. He didn’t have a relationship with the people who took his daughter. There wasn’t a past he had to deal with. He figured out what they took from him and got it back. That’s not going to work for you. Most likely the person you’re mad at was an intimate part of your life so you’ll have to sift thru all the emotions that are associated with this person. Also it won’t help if they give you back what they took from you (even if they could). It’s impossible to give a father back to a family. Remember your goal here is not to get back what they took from you, but to move beyond your anger at this person to a more healthy (righteous) mindset.
The third step to forgiveness is to cancel the debt. Take that sheet of paper you’ve written a book of wrongs on with the person’s name at the top of it and burn it. Bury it, nail it to a cross you make. Find a physical way to say that this debt has been paid. You’re going to need to remember this action when those feelings of anger return (and they will) so make it as dramatic as you want. It’s your debt and you can burn it if you want to! The point is that you’ve got to cancel it. You’ve got to let that debt go.
The fourth and final step to forgiveness is to dismiss the case. I’ve had to do this many times in my own life. Those feelings of anger and hatred don’t go away easily. In fact they’ll come back up when you least expect them to. Be ready for them. Remind yourself that you’ve forgiven the person that hurt you. It’ll help if you keep in mind that forgiveness is not a feeling. Sometimes I don’t feel like forgiving! (Matthew 18.21-35) Forgiveness isn’t a feeling or an emotion. It’s a decision. I can decide that the person who took something from me doesn’t owe me anything anymore. They don’t have to ask for my forgiveness either, because forgiving them isn’t about them really. It’s about me. It’s about getting rid of the hate and anger inside of me so I can live a life that produces the righteousness that God desires (James 1.20).
I realized several years back that I was using my father’s disappearing act and subsequent betrayals as a crutch. I act like I do because my father left us. I woke up one day and realized I was letting a person I didn’t even like completely control my life from long distance! I stopped using it as a crutch. Stanley in his book It Came From Within suggests that instead of using your story as a crutch, use it as an example of God’s power to free you from your past.
You’ll realize that you’ve forgiven someone when you want good things to happen to them. Sound familiar? I hope so. It’s what Jesus commanded us to do for our enemies (Matthew 5.43-48). This has been a fake it until you make it thing for me. I pray for good things to happen to my father and I might even be starting to really mean them. Forgiveness isn’t easy. Not by a long shot, but it is a necessity. Jesus said that He’s going to forgive me by the same standard that I forgive others (Matthew 6.14-15). I’ve sinned a lot. I want 100% forgiveness so I’m working my way to forgiving the people who hurt me 100% also.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6.14-15)