We all have different triggers that make us angry but the reality is the most two common causes are:
- Frustration - when our goals are blocked.
- Hurt - when someone does or says something to us that really hurts us.
Wherever there is hurt, there is a theft. There is an imbalance to get even with the person that has hurt them. In order to achieve justice, a transaction must take place that transfers something back to the victim.
It could be an apology, a favour, money or some other form of restitution but the tension will remain until the debt is settled
The root of anger is the perception that something has been taken. Something is owed you. And now a debt-to-debtor relationship has been established.
Anger says ‘you owe me’
Think about a time that you got angry?
- Who were you angry with?
- What was it that they had taken from you, to make you angry?
- What did they owe you?
The reality is we all have to deal with hurt and frustration which creates angry feelings. We can’t avoid these debt-to-debtor relationships.
Ephesians 4:26 "In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”
Paul says it’s okay to feel anger, but it’s not okay to behave angrily. Believing that we should never be angry is impossible and not very helpful.
So if we can’t avoid ‘feeling’ angry then how do we deal with those feelings, so they don’t allow us to sin? Ephesians 4 has some great insight about dealing with our anger. Discuss how the following verses help us deal with our angry feelings.
Ephesians 4:26-27 “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Ephesians 4:31 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
We are to extend an attitude of forgiveness that mirrors the kind God extended toward us in Christ. We need to understand that it’s only as we forgive and release people and cancel their debt that we can really confront and restore relationship the right way.
So how do you forgive someone?
Parable of the Ungrateful Servant gives us great insight in how to cancel a debt (the true essence of forgiveness) Matthew 18:21-35 .
If you are a Christian, you don’t forgive because the other person deserves it; you forgive because you have been forgiven.
So next time your feeling angry, you need to extend forgiveness. Here are four phases that can help you forgive those that hurt you.
- Identify with who you are angry.
Trying to forget a debt is not the same as cancelling it. I recommend that you make a list of the people who have mistreated or taken advantage of you. Go back as far as you like, but don’t assume you’ve forgiven someone just because you’ve ‘put it behind you’.
- Who do you hope to never see again?
- Who do you find yourself having imaginary conversations with?
- Who would you like to pay back if you thought you could get away with it?
- Who do you secretly desire to see fail?
- Determine what they owe you.
This is the step most of us skip. As a result, we forgive generally but not specifically. This is where the parable of the ungrateful servant is so helpful. Just as the king forgave the specific amount owed him by the servant, so we must determine exactly what is owed to us by those who have hurt us.
- You know what the person who hurt you did but what exactly did they take?
- What would they need to return in order to put things back the way they were?
- An apology? Money? A marriage? A family? A job? A reputation? An opportunity? A promotion? A chapter of your life?
Be specific. You can’t cancel a debt that you have not clearly identified.
- Cancel the debt.
After identifying exactly what was taken, you must cancel the debt. That means deciding that the offending party doesn’t owe you anything anymore. Just as Christ cancelled your sin debt at Calvary, so you and I must cancel the debts that others have incurred against us. This may be as simple as a decision you make quietly in your heart. Or you may want to mark the decision with something more tangible.
- Dismiss the case.
The final process centres on a daily decision not to reopen your case. What makes this so difficult is that our feelings don’t automatically follow our decisions to forgive. Besides, forgiving someone doesn’t erase our memories. If we could forgive and forget, this whole thing would be a lot easier. But in most cases, no sooner have we forgiven than something happens to remind us of the offense all over again. And when our memories are triggered, the old feelings come flooding back.
One of two things usually happens at this point. We either
- take hold of the offense all over again,
- we try not to think about it and turn our thoughts elsewhere.
Neither response is appropriate or helpful!
When memories of past hurts flood your mind, go ahead and face them. Allow yourself to remember the incident. But instead of reopening the case against your offender, take this opportunity to restate your decision “He/she does not owe me”. Feelings come, feelings go. But the decision remains.
In time, if you cling to the fact that this individual doesn’t owe you anymore, your feelings will change. The day will come when you will be able to respond to your offender in light of where he or she stands in relationship to Christ, rather than in light of how that person treated you.