It takes a lot to make me angry, but when I do get angry I have a tendency to hold on to that anger for a long time. Holding on to the anger is not a good thing for me because it festers and then explodes.
There are 3 times in my life that my anger was memorable (at least to me). The first time was when I was in high school. A boy who seemed to enjoy tormenting me knocked my books off of my desk in geometry class and then simply walked out of the classroom. I followed him out into the hallway and was screaming at him at the top of my lungs. It didn’t do me any good. He still didn’t pick up the books.
The second time was in the middle of a church service. I was trying to listen to the sermon and the 2 guys sitting next to me were talking. I asked them to stop and one of them did, but the other guy continued to talk. I asked him several times to stop, but he wouldn’t. I got so angry that I stood up in the middle of service, slapped him across the face, and walked out of the service. (Btw, it was a really loud slap, and the guy’s mother saw it and followed me to the restroom.)
The third time was also in church. It was following a Wednesday evening Bible study. I had had a really long and hard day at work. I was already tired and cranky, but I had nursery duty on Wednesday nights as well. That particular Wednesday night I didn’t have any help (which was actually quite normal) and I had over 10 children in the nursery. By the end of the night, I was extremely tired and frustrated. Unfortunately, one of the mothers came up to me and said some things that just made me even angrier. I walked away and told her that I was not able to talk about it right then. I tried to get out of the church before I lost it, but a friend saw that I was upset and asked what was wrong. That is when I exploded in front of a crowd.
After each and every one of these incidences I held on to my anger for days and in one case for weeks afterwards. I felt that I was justified in my anger and wanted apologies. I never received them even though I did eventually calm down and apologized myself which honestly made angry again. By holding on to that anger though, I was only harming myself.
Anger in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing especially when it is used to stimulate change, but it can be extremely dangerous when it is left unchecked.
It is toxic to the person who is angry when unchecked. A root of bitterness grabs hold and that root is hard to get rid of. That bitterness turns us into the victims and makes it hard for us to see how we might have handled the situation differently. It casts the blame on everyone but ourselves.
Anger pushes us to react instead of taking a moment and acting. It is when we react that relationships are damaged in our anger and that forgiveness seems so far away.
When we learn how to properly handle anger so that we can easily let go of it, then the Lord can begin teaching us how to forgive. Forgiveness is so important for healing whether it is healing in us or in our relationships, but forgiveness is also a process. It is not something that happens overnight. It involves a lot of prayer and a lot of choosing. It is choosing to forgive every time that incident comes to mind. It is choosing to look for the lessons in the situation and how we might have handled it differently.
It is when we forgive that the anger we felt can be used as a catalyst for change.