Anger and Forgiveness

Anger and Forgiveness

I’ll admit that I’m an introvert. Somebody who’d rather be alone. Completing some task by myself. I enjoy being that way but at other times I wish I was more of an extrovert. Somebody who is naturally friendly and needs companions. To be that someone who people feel comfortable to confide in and get advice. Therefore, in the mold of a typical introvert, I found it interesting to read on the subject of friendship.

One book I enjoyed was entitled, “The Friendship Factor – How to Closer to the People You Care For”. The author, Alan Loy McGinnis, is or was a Christian psychologist in Glendale, California. It is always interesting to see how the practice and experience of psychologists can often reflect the wisdom of God which is already established in his word. The subject of the book is how to develop deep and lasting friendships.

As I read the topics I realized that much of what he was saying was so typical of one of my good friends Chris who had died back in 1999. Chris was a natural at making friends. What made Chris so special for so many people is listed in McGinnis' five guidelines for cultivating intimacy:

  1. Use your body to demonstrate warmth
  2. Be liberal with praise
  3. Schedule leisurely breaks for conversation
  4. Learn to listen
  5. Talk freely about your feelings

I’ve taken the time to do other classes on these subjects but for this morning I wanted to deal with some other topics in the book. More specifically we'll be looking at the destruction emotion of anger and how to practice the art of forgiveness.


Anger can be a very destructive emotion but is it always bad? Usually it is bad. The majority of the time that anger is dealt with in the Bible we are given a warning.

(Psa 37:8-9) "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. {9} For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth."

(Prov 15:18) "A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife."

(James 1:19-20) "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: {20} For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

Anger is an emotion that each one of us battles against. It's how we deal with it that counts. Notice that these verses are not so much against anger but against being quick to anger, or having a short fuse. Anger unchecked is a very dangerous thing that can in an instant leave a relationship in ruins that will take years to build up again. James' words are so true, "swift to hear... slow to speak... slow to wrath". Makes me wish the Bible translators would have put some extra Os in the word slow to get the point across.

Being "slow to anger" or "longsuffering" is one of the great qualities of God. Anger, that is righteous anger, is often demonstrated by God.

(Psa 7:11) "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day."

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the perfect manifestation of the Father frequently displayed this emotion.

(Mark 3:4-5) "And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. {5} And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other."

(Mark 10:13-14 RSV) "And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. {14} But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God."

And who can leave out his fiery indignation while driving out those who sold in the temple (John 2:13-17). So is wrath and anger always wrong? No it is not, but for us who are so prone to the flesh and to making wrong judgments our wrath and anger are often misplaced. To be slow to anger for us, brethren and sisters, must have a serious time lag. It must be in another time zone.

There is another way that anger can be destructive. The author, McGinnis, brings this out when he says,

"Psychologists disagree about almost everything, but on one point they display surprising unanimity: There is no such things as a person who never gets angry --- there are only those who suppress anger. And sending anger underground can produce a thousand psychosomatic problems, such as ulcers, migraines, and hypertension, and also some serious relational difficulties." (pg. 129).

"Sending anger underground can produce a thousand . . . problems". Paul puts it this way in Eph. 4:26,

"Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:"

So Paul here leaves some room for being angry (even though he lists it as something to be put away in v. 31). The trick is to be angry and sin not. How do we let it not become sin. By not suppressing the anger or in other words "by not letting the sun go down upon our wrath".

I think we've all been guilty of playing the game of "passive hostility." Something somebody else has done has angered you. We let it boil and steam inside of us. We display a body language or a tone of voice to subtlety clue the other person in. And when that other person says, "Is there anything wrong?" our reply is "No". They respond again, "Are you mad or something?" "Who me? Of course not." It's a dirty way to fight and not what I would consider the example of "being angry and sinning not." It is much harder to deal with a person who is passively hostile then with someone who is direct and honest with their anger.

Another danger of sending anger underground is the pressure cooker syndrome. This is people who bottle up their anger until all of a sudden they explode in a very irrational way. The means of this outburst can often be disproportionate to the immediate concern because the person is venting a lot of past grievances. No one can understand what's wrong because it just doesn't make sense. The result is communication shorts out and rifts get made. This type of anger is also often misplaced. The anger can explode on unintended victims. The most obvious example is a husband and father who has tension at work that he takes out on his family. They may have no idea of the pressures he's under so they think the anger is directed towards them and so family harmony goes awry.

Anger is something that we personally have to manage in our own lives but it is also something that we have to allow room for in relationships with others. Any deep and lasting love must leave room for negative feelings and anger. A friendship not only stays healthy because you control your anger but that you also let others vent at you. People need to know that they can be grouchy and still be accepted. We must realize that sometimes negative emotions are not directed towards us. Sometimes we are just in a vile mood and we need to drain some of the vile poison out of our system with a little help from our friends.

When anger and confrontation occur it is something that we must turn for the better. It is something we must use to deepen our relationships. It may sound funny but we can still love and be angry at the same time. Just because a loved one is railing against you doesn't mean that it's all over. All relations go through these emotions. The author gives a cute story of a husband who after an argument with his wife received this note on the kitchen counter:

Dear Charlie,

I hate you.

Love, Martha

So we will have these mixed emotions. The only thing wrong with them is when we continue to hurt and cut and drive the other person from us. The problem is when we let these emotions broil within us until there is no remedy. Be open and honest about your feelings. Let confrontations be a stepping stone to a deeper and more lasting friendship. Constant battles are not healthy but when the infrequent arguments do occur there can often be a new freshness that comes from reconciliation. There is a new openness and a new understanding.

The Art of Forgiveness

When there are wounds the healing is forgiveness. There is an art to forgiveness. It is not any easy thing to implement. It takes skill and patience. The awful thing is when we don't practice forgiveness but rather hold grudges. True love does not hold grudges. Paul in 1 Cor. 13:5 says,

"[Love] Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;"

That word "thinketh" is the Greek word "logizomai" which can literally mean "to take an inventory". That is why the NIV translates it as love "keeps no record of wrongs". Love does not sit there and say, "Oops there's another one. That's the tenth time you've done that to me." The author has this to say about hate,

"The sad thing about hate . . . is what it can do to the hater. I talked with a young mother who was bristling with bitterness. Her husband's parents had said some unkind things to her, there had been a bad scene, and she said, "I'll never feel the same toward my in-laws again. Oh, they've apologized, but I can't forget what they've said." I felt sorry for that woman, for she was the one who was suffering most from her hatred, not her in-laws."

Indeed, there is a great danger in this woman's attitude for it is a poison that will eat away at her whole being. Paul says in Eph. 4:31-32,

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: {32} And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

These are not just nice platitudes. They’re life giving principles. You will never find true happiness if you hold grudges. Go ahead and collect stamps or baseball cards but don't collect grudges. Get rid of them. There is a vicious cycle to hatred that will act like compound interest.

Thank God that love also is like compound interest. The little acts of kindness each day will continue to grow and surmount your most wildest dreams. Our calling is to defuse any acts of hatred, anger and violence with love.

Forgiveness is a very powerful positive force. In our relationship with God forgiveness only comes through confession and contrition. Hopefully this also takes place amongst ourselves. Whoa be to us if a brother asks of us forgiveness and we do not grant it to him. We may say we forgive him with our lips but do him the disservice of bearing a grudge. To this Jesus said that our forgiveness with God would then be in jeopardy.

(Mat 6:14-15) "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15} But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

It may be a difficulty but when we get an apology we can usually displace our anger enough to forgive. But what happens when you've been wronged (or think you've been wronged) and the offender doesn't even admit his error? What about the brother who will never say "I'm sorry"? Does our commitment to forgive another always entail an apology on their behalf? This is where love meets its toughest challenge. This is where love is at it's greatest.

(Mat 5:43-44) "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. {44} But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"

If such things are commanded of us towards our enemies then how much more to our brethren? How did Joseph react to the wrong his brethren did him? How did David deal with the persecutions of Saul? What was Jesus' attitude on the cross? How did Paul deal with his Corinthian brethren who questioned his authority? They all took it as faithful men who showed forth the love of God.

If we are to love one another we need a tolerance of others as generous as that tolerance we display toward our own errors. Nobody is above reproach. Often in heated arguments there are wrongs done on both sides and there is no clear indication of who's right or wrong. It is simply remarkable how understanding we can be of our own errors. We know that we didn't intend it, or it happened in a moment of stress or weakness, or we weren't feeling right that day or we'll do better next time. But how often do we allow that latitude to others. We tend to see ourselves not for what we are but for what we strive to be whereas we see others for just what they are. Jesus didn't do this with others. For instance, with Peter or the woman at the well. He knew their faults yet he loved them for their potential. If we could just assume the good of others first off and extend to them kindness and understanding, then we would be a far way to building everlasting friendships.

Surely the best thing to help our forgiving of others is to ask for God's help. Is it not important that Christ tells us to "pray for them which despitefully use you"? Amazing things happen when we pray for others. Our whole attitude changes towards that person. That power then comes from God who is there helping us in our problems and our dealings with others. It is comforting that we are not alone if we ask for God's help in these matters.


In conclusion, we've seen some keys to repairing relationships when there are problems. Certainly it's not all that can be said on the subject but hopefully a good start. You'll just have to come to the camp out to get more.

Anger management is crucial for our discipleship. Anger is not always wrong but it usually is in our case. Being slooooow to anger is the very quality of God which we must strive for. Anger becomes sin when we let it harbor within us and let it stew so that it comes out on unintended loved ones or blows up on an irrational moment. We must learn in our relationships that anger is something we will have to deal with in others. Negative feelings do happen between loved ones but hopefully we can use it for the better, to build stronger more lasting relationships.

Forgiveness is then at the heart of the healing. To hold a grudge is to suppress anger. Forgiveness is the only way to release this poison and bring happiness and stability into our lives. We have considered also the case were apologies might not be forthcoming yet love does not keep an inventory of wrongs. Our calling is to accept rebuke and suffering and to love no matter what. It is helpful in this case to first all consider ourselves, our shortcomings and how easy we are on ourselves when we screw up. If we truly consider this, then our attitude towards others should change too.

Finally, forgiveness is something that we can call upon God for help with. Pray for those who despitefully use you. God is there willing to give us the power of his love. Consider now how great God's love was and is towards us who were such sinners. Consider how much God has forgiven us.

(Rom 5:6-8) "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. {7} For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. {8} But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

We come now before the emblems, a symbol of our unity and love for one another. It is a symbol of Christ's love for us in that he laid down his life for the brethren. Every week as we gather here the conclusion is inescapable. We must also lay down our lives for the brethren.