I’ve been thinking a lot lately about anger and forgiveness, love and selfishness, holding grudges and letting go. For several years, but in the past several months in particular, I have been trying to figure out how to deal with it when some people are doing wrong toward others that I love (and to a lesser degree toward me). I’ve tried to be the peacemaker, I’ve tried to talk sense and reason, I’ve tried to simply be kind and hope that things will get better. Lately I’ve been feeling like it has all been for nothing.
And I’ve been pissed. Oh man, I’ve had some serious righteous anger going on over here. Roiling, gut-wrenching, at-times-preventing-me-from-sleep anger. I loathe the feeling of impotent rage – when someone is doing something so obviously, hurtfully, terribly wrong, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And I’m not going to go into detail in this post about what the others’ hurtful behaviors have been, because this post isn’t really about them. It’s about me and how I am trying to figure out how to respond to it.
So here I sit. Struggling with my own glaring imperfections that make it difficult for me to let go of anger, and I think about how I want to be. A few years ago, I probably would have just let myself stew in this sense of righteousness. I probably would have been mad and stayed mad and liked it, in a miserable sort of way.
But now I know that I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want it for myself, and I don’t want to set a bad example for my kids.
So every time I get to thinking angry thoughts about being hurt and having my loved ones hurt, I try to turn my thoughts toward forgiveness and love. Usually I fail pretty miserably, but I keep trying. And here’s why:
When I’m focused on being angry at someone else for being selfish and mean and unforgiving and hurtful, I’m not remembering the grace and mercy of God. Instead, I need to focus on what Jesus taught us about how to treat others. He said to forgive “seventy times seven times,” to “turn the other cheek,” to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
He also said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” This is one of my crosses to bear. And as such, if I let it be, it’s a way for me to grow, and become more faithful, more loving, more forgiving.
And really, part of the reason I’m writing this is to remind myself of these things. Because it’s so easy to forget, and to go right back to relishing that angry voice in my head, to thinking, “how dare they?” and rehearsing would-be conversations in my head in which I really tell them off.
So I’m trying. At least a few times a day I’m reminding myself to be forgiving, to work on feeling love toward others, even when they have hurt me. I’m offering up my frustration and sorrow. I’m going to confession and admitting my anger. I’m praying for those who are doing wrong, who are hurting me and my loved ones, and for all of us to find it in our hearts to be forgiving.
And I’m doing all of this very, very imperfectly and with a lot of struggle. I wish it was easy for me. But then it wouldn’t be such an opportunity for change and growth.