Anger has a big part to play in our life on the other side of the door - often more so than we realize. I never thought of myself as being an angry person but, in hindsight, it became clearer to me just how often a spirit of anger ruled my life. Those I loved sadly had to bear the brunt of it. Although I couldn't grasp it at the time, this angry attitude came out in the smallest of things...and I knew something was wrong.
To understand the heart of this anger, we have to trace it back to its source. Sometimes anger is the result of bitterness over something in the past; other times it comes from the process of grieving an intense loss. Many times it is also passed from one generation to another over some grievance many years before. Sometimes, we can't even identify where it starts. We're just angry. That's all we know.
In looking back, I was angry at lots of things - God, other people, myself - and I tried to store that anger away on the other side of the door. I lied to myself that it was useful "for motivation" when in reality, it was only "motivating" me to become more angry...to want to find a way to get even with those situations or people that I wasn't happy with. It eventually turned into an, I'll show them kind of spirit. I was out for justice: to prove that others were wrong, that God was wrong, that I was right.
On the contrary, God's way is for us to put away anger (Eph. 4:31), for us to care more about being justified through Christ than being out for justice. Anger causes us to not be able to rationalize properly. When we're hotheaded, we can't see others or ourselves in the correct light. After all, anger caused the first physical death in the Bible when Adam and Eve's firstborn son, Cain, killed his brother Abel, because he was jealous that God had honored Abel's sacrifice instead of his own (Gen. 4:1-16). Anger, when provoked, can easily lead to rash decisions and, ultimately, to guilt and regret at a later time.
The most important consequence of anger is that it often leads us to hurt other people - physically and emotionally. As a result, they can sustain wounds that last a lifetime.
In order for us to face the darkness, to plunge even further into the chasm, we need to be on the look out for a spirit of anger and ask the Voice of Truth to show us what is at the heart of it.
Closely tied to anger (and often it's perpetrator) is unforgiveness. It's what I call the wall of separation. In many cases, it is never torn down after being erected. When an offense has occurred and the offending party refuses to repent and ask for forgiveness, there can arise such a division that people often simply walk away and determine never to speak to one another again.
None of us can avoid being hurt. We all say and do things that inflict emotional and physical pain on one another. This is an accepted fact of life. All you've got to do is see this demonstrated in a classroom of children: kids can be very cruel and often say the meanest things to each other. We've all got the potential to be this way...from children all the way to adults. We think it's our right to hold a certain position on something and, whether we intentionally hurt someone or not, it serves the other party right to apologize first...not us. They started the whole thing first; they have no right to be forgiven unless they apologize. In our minds, we think that what transpired was too painful to be forgotten and let go of. No grace given here, we say.
For most of my life, I would've denied that I had a problem with unforgiveness. I thought I dealt with offenses pretty well. My parents had demonstrated from my early years wheat forgiving others was all about, and I felt I had learned that lesson a long time ago. What I didn't realize was that forgiving only gets harder with time. To forgive a friend or sibling for taking your toy is one thing...but to forgive someone who betrayed you or said hurtful things against you or somebody you love...that takes the concept to a whole new level. A totally new type of grace is needed to forgive one who perhaps murdered a relative of yours, or who neglected your child, or who bullies your disabled sibling at school. Often, we find it harder to resist becoming angry, hateful, and resentful under these circumstances than under those we dealt with when we were little. It took me a long time to fully grasp the effect that my unwillingness to forgive was having on myself as well as others. When I became willing to be candid with myself regarding who I refused to forgive and why, I was shocked at how many names and situations came to mind. The anger stewed within me...because I had excused myself of any responsibility in these situations and was waiting for others to make the first move.
The thing about forgiveness is that it dares us to do the unnatural. In many cases, it seems nearly impossible to extend grace to someone we feel does not deserve it. They hurt us, we think; what's a little hurt in return going to do to them?! Serves them right for the way they treated us! Sadly, many people take this so far as to try to even the score and to seek revenge on the offending party. Thus, the hatred and resentment is perpetuated...
I so clearly remember when God first began to walk me deeper into the chasm and reveal to me the shadows of my broken light - the darkness brought on partly by my resistance to the healing power of forgiveness. I didn't understand at the time how such a concept was even possible.
So often I asked God, Doesn't the offending party have to be the first to seek restoration?
How can I forgive when they've done nothing to seek it?
As the Voice of Truth answered through my disillusionment, the response left me both surprised and bewildered: forgiveness isn't so much for their benefit as it is for yours. Don't wait for them to release their hatred first...you go ahead and release yours.
While I took in this mind-blowing concept, it also struck me that I was far from being at a place where I could fully comprehend such an idea and put it into practice. I still wanted to know the reason behind why they weren't willing to change. But I also was constantly reminded that I was angry about it all...and the real issue was, could I change? Would I be the first to let go?