Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,
for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
While Dave outwardly expressed his anger, I stuffed mine and I never dealt with it. Neither action (his or mine) is God’s way of dealing with anger. Both result in sin – for Dave sin against others – for me sin against myself. One of my major mistakes was to deny my anger and keep it inside. I never felt I had the right to be angry. I didn’t share my hurts, fears or frustrations and the resulting anger with anyone because I did not feel it was the Christian thing to do.
Unfortunately, the end results of letting the sun go down on your anger and turning that anger inward, is depression. And when I did end up depressed fortunately I started seeing a Christian Psychologist, Dr. Sommers.
Upon my first visit with him, he was initially getting to know me, asking general questions about how I approached different situations. I had read enough counseling books to be a little smug in my understanding of the terminology and savvy about giving the answers I thought would be the right ones.
He said, “Tell me Jan how you deal with confronting people when that becomes necessary.” “Oh, I’m good at confrontation,” I assured him.
“Really,” Dr. Sommers said, nodding me on. “Give me an example of a time you needed to confront someone and how you did it.”
“Well, I can’t think of a particular example but I do it all the time because I am a peacemaker. Whenever anyone is mad at me or displeased with me, I go to him or her immediately to make it right. I ask them what I did to make them angry then I correct the problem, whatever it is.”
His expression clouded over. “Okay, but what do you do to confront someone when you are angry or you are the one who has been wronged?”
“Well …” I paused because I was stunned by the question. I had never even considered confronting anyone who hurt or mistreated me. “I don’t do anything – I stuff it. I find it pretty easy to swallow it and that way no one is hurt.”
“Jan,” Dr. Sommers said gently, “you are not confronting in a healthy way when you rush after anyone who is displeased with you to find out what you must do to keep that person from being mad at you. A big difference exists between placating someone and being a peacemaker. You need to learn how to live honestly with others, not just do whatever they want so they don’t get mad at you.”
He continued, “Also, ignoring situations where you have been wronged because you want to ‘keep the peace’ reveals a problem. No, you won’t hurt others but stuffing your anger will hurt you – in fact it already has.”
I sat there stunned. This was an area of my life that I thought was fine. Now, in light of what his questions revealed, I suddenly realized I needed to be aware of my own feelings and needs without feeling selfish. I also needed to reevaluate the patterns that I had set in all my relationships and find new healthy ways to respond.
The understanding I gained set me free to see situations differently and I responded differently. Now because I am more aware of my emotions, if I’ve been wronged or sinned against by someone, I go to the person as Scripture tells us to in Matthew 18:15-17.
I still have to swallow hard (it will never be easy for me) before confronting those who might get mad at me or retreat from me. I will always need an extra dose of courage when I confront but at least I realize confrontation is necessary at times to keep my relationships and me healthy, balanced and honest.
And finally I learned that I had always prided myself on my graciousness shown in overlooking wrongs against me. I saw my placating and people-pleasing-at-all-costs kind of behavior as a Godly virtue when it really wasn’t. Only when I was weakened by depression, could I see my life in His light and take steps under His direction on the path that He taught me so that I could heal.
Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
On the journey with you,