I opened the email and immediately felt my temperature rise. Someone had stirred up a situation I thought had been settled.
“Oh, that makes me angry!” I uttered out loud. (To confess, my language was a little stronger than that.)
My irritation boiled the remainder of the day. I craved the instant gratification of calling the person and unloading my feelings. Equally as powerful, I fought the urge to run to a third-party to vent my frustration.
The voice of wisdom and experience whispered inside my head, “don’t do either – you’ll regret it later.”
Still battling these temptations, I went to bed smoldering, bypassing the counsel of Ephesians 4:26, which advises, “do not let the sun go down on your anger . . .” (NRSV)
The next morning, I spent my prayer time laying out the situation before God – animatedly describing all the reasons why I had every right to be upset with the person. I asked for His help to diffuse my anger, yet I was still fuming when I said “Amen.”
I grumpily muddled through the day, mentally re-stoking my “righteous anger” at every turn.
Midafternoon, I took a break from my household chores to check social media. Out of the blue, I thought about a pastor friend who lived several states away. I felt compelled to visit his church’s website – something I had never done before.
There was my friend’s picture, along with recordings of his latest sermons. Thinking it would be fun to hear his voice, I clicked on the most recent talk. It was labeled, “Romans 12:18,” but off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember what that verse was about.
As the recording began to play, my friend’s familiar voice flooded the room as he quoted the verse,
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
I sunk into my couch, immediately knowing that God was speaking to me. In an instant, I realized my approach had been wrong all along.
I hadn’t wanted peace. I had wanted to be “right” and prove the other person wrong. I had been more interested in “winning” than in preserving the relationship. I had been so engrossed in licking my own wounds, I had given little thought to how the other person might be feeling.
It became clear to me that going forward, I needed to make pursuing peace my highest priority.
As that conviction settled in my spirit, anger simultaneously loosened its grip.
Weeks later, the issue itself is still a work in progress, but my attitude toward the person has completely changed. Instead of nursing my anger, I have made it a point to be kind. While my convictions remain strong about the matter, I have chosen to calmly share my perspective and “let go” of the outcome. In return, the person has treated me with respect and our relationship has remained intact.
I realize that many situations are much more severe and complex. Some circumstances are so horrific that everlasting anger seems more than justified.
But whether you are experiencing a minor irritation or deep rage fueled by injustice or cruelty, I encourage you to consider the following question:
“As far as it depends on you, have you done everything you can to live at peace?”
Here are seven things to ponder.
- Have you given yourself time to “cool down?”
- Have you refrained from adding fuel to the fire?
- Have you resisted drawing more people than necessary into the issue?
- Have you let go of your desire to be “right” or to “win?”
- Have you considered the other person’s feelings?
- Have you forgiven the person—even if they haven’t asked or don’t deserve it?
- Have you pursued peace (taken steps to resolve the matter, if possible)?
Scripture acknowledges that we can’t control how the other person responds. A peaceful resolution or reconciliation may not happen. (I would add, that in some cases, maintaining distance is wise for personal safety).
Yet we do have the power to choose our actions. If we know in our hearts that we have given our best effort to achieve peace, we can not only diffuse our anger, but help restore our sense of well-being.
Is someone triggering anger in your life right now? If so, try loosening anger’s grip by pursuing peace.