"we tend to think of anger in terms of episodes. we get angry and then we get over it. sometimes we apologize to the person who is the object of our anger, and sometimes we don't. but somehow the other person, apology or not, gets over his defensive response, whether an angry outward retort or an inner resentment, and life goes on as usual. the relationship has been scarred but not broken. its not a great way to live with one another, but its tolerable. that seems to be the way far too many believers view the sin of anger. they've just come to accept it as part of life" (129).this quote describes my life. being prideful and non-confrontational has made this the only acceptable response for me. i am too prideful to admit when i have wronged someone or when i lashed out in anger or passive aggression. and i am too non-confrontational to tell someone when they have hurt me, i just try to take it and get over it, all the while, most of the time i am just stuffing it. this formula creates the perfect storm for me, which leads to what bridges calls the weeds of anger. that is what this chapter is about, anger that goes on, never being dealt with.
in the last post we talked about how most of time when we are angry, it is sin because it is not righteous anger. ephesians 4:26 tells us that we are not to let the sun go down on our anger. this is because most of our anger is sin and when we let sin go, it just leaves an open door for other sin. scripture calls us to put away our anger quickly, but not to stuff it as i often do, but to confess it, seek forgiveness and address the root. if not it will only cause trouble. weeds of unresolved anger will appear.
the first of these weeds that bridges addresses is resentment. bridges says, "most often it is internalized. it arises in the heart of a person who is ill-treated in some way but who does not feel in a position to anything about it"(130). it is "more difficult to deal with than outwardly expressed anger because the person often continues to nurse his wounds and dwell on his ill-treatment"(130). (i am a pro at this because i know it is not socially acceptable to blow up at someone, so if i keep it inside it is better).
the second "weed" is bitterness. bridges defines bitterness as "resentment that has grown into a feeling of ongoing animosity. whereas resentment may dissipate over time, bitterness continues to grow and fester, developing an even higher degree of ill will"(130). you often hear people say, "i have forgiven them, but i do not want anything to do with them." this is not forgiveness. bridges points out that "true forgiveness results in a restored relationship, not continuing animosity"(131).
the third "weed" is enmity and hostility and they "denote a higher level of ill will or animosity than does bitterness. ...[it] is usually expressed more openly. often it is in the form of denigrating or even hateful speech toward or about the objects of animosity. ...[it also] usually spreads its poison outward to involve other people."
the fourth "weed" is a grudge. bridges explains that the word grudges occurs 5 times in the bible and it is associated with taking revenge. most of us do not get to the stage where we carry out revenge, but "people will plan, if only in their minds, ways to get revenge against the person they hold a grudge against. they usually do not execute those plans but they get a perverse enjoyment out of going over them in their minds"(132). ashamedly, i can say that i have been here before. imagining conversations or situations and what i would say that would cause them to feel the hurt that i have felt. this brings some sense of relief or enjoyment, but really only place more shackles on you.
the fifth "weed" is strife. bridges says this "describes open conflict or turmoil between parties, usually between opposing groups as distinct from individuals" (133). this is where we see church fights/splits and family feuds.
reading this quickly reveals that anger when held on to can become VERY dangerous and destructive! thankfully bridges moves on to give us some pointers on how to deal with anger. first he reminds us again that anger is never static and must be dealt with. this has been a bit overwhelming to me as i examine my life and see how deep my resentments go and far my anger is stuffed inside of me. but the lord has been faithful over the last year to make me address stuff even though it seems enormous, rather than just continuing to pretend it does not exist.
next, bridges tells us that we must always look to the sovereignty of god. we have to trust that god is sovereign and in control and that he has allowed this harm to happen for some purpose that we do not see. now this can sound like a cop out, but i have found that when i really stop and think about this, it is the ONLY thing that brings me comfort and hope. for me, i have seen that these circumstances have often caused me to learn more about my savior and my need for him.
bridges then tells us to pray that god would enable us to grow more in love, love life he loves us. "the love that overlooks an offense doesn't just happen, it comes as we pursue it diligently in dependence on the holy spirit"(135). remember 1 corinthians 13 teaches us that love is not easily angered, nor does it keep a record of wrongs. if you keep thinking about the wrongs that have been done to you, you have not forgiven yet. forgiveness takes time. when we are hurt, our natural inclination is not to absorb the wrong. but the more we know christ and his love for us and the more we depend on the spirit, the more this will come. i am in need of some serious growth here!
the final direction is to learn to forgive as the god has forgiven us. again matthew 18:21-35 pretty much kicks my tail here. my unwillingness to forgive others shows my lack of understanding of christ's forgiveness of me and the amount he has forgiven me. when i dwell on the enormity of christ's forgiveness of me then my heart of bitterness begins to melt. until i am truly able to acknowledge that i am the worst of sinners, then i will always be in a place to hold a grudge or demand repayment for a wrong done to me. a long-term unwillingness to forgive is a flag that perhaps we do not understand or believe the gospel.
bridges again makes a point to remind us that he is writing this that we may be able to bring our sin, even our respectable sins into the light and be healed. that we may be free from the bondage of sin. i know that anger is one of my favorite respectable sins in my life. the next chapter, judgementalism, is another favorite. lord, forgive me for all those that i have hurt in my sin of anger!