A friend of mine was recently caught in the middle of drama. We'll call this friend Jim. Sally told Billy a lie about Jim. As a result, Billy is now mad at and not really speaking to Jim. For the moment, this lie has wrecked that relationship.
Jim and I talked about it for a while and he finally asked, "Is it okay that I'm mad? Is it wrong for me to be angry about this?"
The answer? It is perfectly normal for you to be mad, disappointed, hurt, and angry when somebody wrongs you. It is not a sin.
But the Bible does say something tricky. "In your anger, do not sin." Its okay to be angry. But anger is very hard to control, isn't it? When we are wronged, we want the world to know. We want the person responsible to pay. We want to hurt them like they hurt us. Anger is tricky to deal with in a holy way.
Here are some thoughts about how to deal with anger and guard yourself from falling into sin.
- Pray. Seriously, ask God for self-control and gentleness. These are fruits of the Spirit and you should never try to do the Christian life alone. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you keep yourself from sin.
- Humble yourself. Remind yourself that you are a sinner too and you have hurt others too. What was done to you? Were you lied about? Now ask yourself, have you ever told a lie? Were you gossiped about? Ask yourself, have you ever gossiped? Usually, you'll find that you have wronged others in similar ways. A healthy dose of humility can help you put things into perspective.
- Leave. If you are in a situation in which you are angry and likely to sin out of anger, excuse yourself as respectfully as you can and go calm down. Proverbs 29:20 tells us how foolish it is to speak too quickly. Calm down before you do or say anything.
- Forgive. I know some people disagree with me, but I don't think it takes two people to forgive. Forgiveness is up to you, whether or not they apologize. Forgiveness is not pretending everything is fine. Forgiveness is deciding in your heart and mind to treat this person with love in spite of the way they wronged you. Colossians 3:13 tells us to forgive as God forgave us in Christ. Don't let bitterness and ill will cloud the way you treat that person. Honor Christ and forgive. Remember Christ and all the ways that He has forgiven you. Remember His death to buy your forgiveness. Allow His example to inspire you to forgive.
- Trust over time. You don't have to immediately trust a person who has wronged you. If the sin they have committed against you is big enough, you might need to allow them to earn your trust again over time. This means if someone gossips about you, forgiving them doesn't mean you have to share your personal secrets with them again. That would be foolishly setting yourself up for hurt. Its up to you to forgive. But the relationship should only be restored after you see repentance. When you forgive AND they repent, then there can be full reconciliation. If it hurt bad enough, you may want to leave time for them to prove they are truly repentant.
- Get godly counsel. Talk to a godly mentor or friend. Don't share details and gossip! But it can be very helpful to share some of your feelings in a loving way to a neutral person (someone not involved in the drama). Ask them for advice and help in dealing with your anger.
- Share honestly and lovingly. If the relationship is one that you can repair, you may need to speak to the person who wronged you. If you don't know how to do this, have that godly neutral friend come along. Tell the person how you were hurt by what they did or said and tell them you'd like to work through this problem together. Allow them a chance to speak. Hear them out. And remember, you can't force them to apologize or repent. Forgive them regardless.
The longer you stay angry and allow that anger to fester, the more tempting it will be to act out sinfully in that anger and the harder it will be to control. When you dwell on anger without dealing with it in a godly way, you are giving the devil a foothold. That means you are leaving the door to your room open a bit, just a crack. And that is enough for the devil to get his foot wedged between the door and the frame. It gives him enough space to make sure you have a hard time getting him pushed back out and getting that door safely shut. If you don't deal with your anger quickly, you are inviting temptation and sin into your life.
So who are you angry at? Why?
Which one of the seven steps above haven't you done yet?
How can you resolve the anger today?