Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Right to Be Angry

You might be like me, and have a few people that you are continuously angry with.  For me, they have done "legitimate" harm to me; they've hurt me.  While I am not without fault, I was definitely wronged by most people's standards.

I'm so tired of carrying around the emotional weight, but I can't seem to let it go.  How in the world am I supposed to forgive them?  I wish it were just as easy as throwing something away or taking off a heavy jacket. 

Did you know that the origin of the word "forgiveness" comes from the Old English forgiefan "give, grant, allow; forgive," also "to give up" and "to give in marriage;" from for- "completely" + giefan "give"? 

The modern sense of "to give up desire or power to punish" is from use of the compound as a Germanic loan-translation of Latin 'perdonare'. (Source: Online Etymology

In other words, forgiveness means completely giving up of your right to be angry.

Well, sorta.  It's not a bad thing to be angry.  It's a bad thing when you carry around emotional baggage, grudges, or other pent up negative energy because someone has done something bad to you.

That's what I mean by your "right to be angry".  Forgiveness means giving THAT up.

It's a lot easier said than done, and you're probably even okay with the definition, but if I ask you to put that into practice, you will probably have a hard time.

"They cut me off first!  Why should I let them back in?"

"She flirted with my boyfriend.  I don't see why I should have to talk to her like a real person."

Our culture teaches that if someone does something wrong to us, we have the right to treat them with equal animosity.  If someone trips us, we have the right to trip him back.

Forgiveness turns all that on its head, and we don't like it.

So, we harbor all of these burdens and grudges.  We carry all of this emotional baggage around.  Sometimes, we can't forgive ourselves and that leads to an endless journey of self-torture.  But we can't let go of our anger.  We have a right, a purpose, to be angry.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” - Mark Twain
In the end, we're the ones that are hurting.  By refusing to forgive, we poison ourselves.

The ironic thing about the message of forgiveness is that it is almost more for you than it is for the one you are forgiving.  Still, we have a hard time accepting it.  We were wronged.  We have the right to at least stay angry, right?

One caveat.

Jesus died for your sins and forgave you.

In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, Jesus tells a story of a man who demanded repayment of a small debt when he had just been forgiven of an enormous debt.

That's how we are when we refuse to forgive others.  Jesus has forgiven us of a debt we could never repay; yet, we still walk around demanding payment from people who owe us pennies.

It doesn't make sense in our society.  That's part of the beauty of it.

Maybe that's the trick of it too: when we struggle to let something go, we must turn to counter-cultural methods. Maybe we need to turn to someone bigger than ourselves to help us through it.  Maybe, just maybe...we can depend on Jesus to teach us how to forgive.  I would imagine He's pretty good at it.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Related Posts:
All Who are Weary
Grace Starts Now 
The Gift of Giving
Reality Check
Loving When There is So Much to Lose