Anger And Its Antidote
by Dr. Ted Roberts & Diane Roberts
The snake’s glands contained enough venom to kill a thousand men.” Gary Richmond’s powerful words gripped the attention of the already wide-eyed group of kids at San Diego’s Wild Animal Park. A thirteen-foot king cobra was shedding its skin, but a scar kept the clear scale protecting its left eye from falling away naturally. Gary was part of a team assigned to remove the eye cap surgically (a tricky procedure at best). In order to accomplish their task, Gary and four other men had to grab the furious cobra and wrestle with its incredible force.
“My hands are sweaty and my fingers are cramping. When I let go, it may not be quick enough. More people are bitten trying to let go of snakes than when they grab them. You get weak quickly when you grab a big poisonous snake.”
A Mighty Foothold
Battling the snake of anger can leave us as weak emotionally and spiritually as Gary and his teammates found themselves physically. Paul’s words in Ephesians explain why: “For anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil” (Eph. 4:27 NLT).
Anger toward another person can seem completely innocent at the time we realize its presence. Come on, he did me wrong, we rationalize. Over time, however, our anger can grow into an absolute leviathan. This malevolent rage obscures our thoughts so completely that letting go seems impossible.
Left to itself, the venom of unresolved anger never disappears. The debt you believe the other person owes you morphs into an open account. You tell yourself through clenched teeth that you’ll never close the books until you receive payment in full. The problem? No one can ever pay you in full. You simply carry the anger from one season of life to the next.
It took me years, for example, to figure out that the occasional outbursts of anger I directed toward my beloved wife weren’t really about her at all. I admit it. I blamed her for the problems every time. But in my heart I knew they had a much deeper source. After about ten years of marriage, I realized my anger was not with Diane but with my family of origin. Diane was safe (she loved me unconditionally) and convenient (she was close at hand), so all the poisonous venom spewed out on her.
God uses marriage as one of his primary tools for developing maturity in the human heart. The painful, passionate, and perplexing dynamics of marriage bring us face-to-face with the deepest, most hidden dimensions of our hearts. Resolving marital problems, then, requires much more than developing a particular set of skills or techniques. True resolution requires gut-wrenching, soul-shattering personal development.
When a spouse is blind to the ways in which God uses the pains and problems of marriage to mature us, he or she can easily lose hope. If it continues, this hopeless attitude will defeat the marriage. Too often a spouse will give up completely because the pain of the moment seems to have no meaning beyond failure and disappointment, no strengthening of soul and heart. But such a negative perspective comes from the pit of hell—exactly where the enemy wants us to stay.
Only forgiveness breaks the power of anger and rage.
Only forgiveness releases the incredible power of intimacy in the marriage of two imperfect people.
Only forgiveness enables marriage to fulfill its ultimate purpose, which is to equip us to live and love in a fallen world.
You see, God never intended you to smooth over your marriage problems. Often the solutions we seek can only come from living through them and working them out together.
That always requires forgiveness. When we avoid the road of forgiveness, we lose.
Emotional integrity refers to the process of learning to be honest with our feelings again. And it all begins with mature forgiveness, which is also a process. Let’s walk through it step-by-step.
1. Identify the source of your anger.
This step is harder than it sounds. We tend to look at our immediate surroundings for a source or cause. Genuine forgiveness is impossible unless we clearly identify the source of our anger. All too frequently we’ve lost sight of the original cause, which lies not in the present but in the past.
You can’t forgive when you don’t know the truth about yourself. Marriage does many things, including providing you with a golden opportunity to discover these deep truths, and fast.
2. Identify your loss (what was taken from you).
Almost everyone misses this step, but it is essential. This process usually takes time, especially if you’ve been dragging that snake around for a while. You may need to revisit the same issue numerous times. Forgiveness may begin as an act of the will, but in order for it to endure it must reach the heart.
You can’t cancel the debt if you never see what was taken from you. And you’ll always discover the loss in your heart, not your head.
3. Decide to cancel the debt.
The deeper the wound or debt, the bigger the cancellation ritual should be. When the loss is great, you need to involve your entire being in the healing process. Forgiveness is not a mind game or religious ritual; it must touch the inner recesses of your soul. This may mean you write a letter to the person you need to forgive even if that individual is no longer alive. You may need to list your grievances (what you’ve lost) on a sheet of paper and burn it as you express your forgiveness. Sometimes the person who needs your forgiveness (such as an angry or abusive parent) is too dangerous for you to confront. In that case, place an empty chair in front of you and talk to the person that way.
My prayer for you as a Sexy Christian is that your life will become one of power and intimacy, not a procession of anger carried from one season to the next. Investing your time and effort in catching the true source of your anger and then releasing it through forgiveness will rev up not only your sex life, but every other aspect of your life as well. Go for it!
Dr. Ted Roberts & Diane Roberts, Sexy Christians, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. © 2010 “Used by permission.” All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.