I’ve never considered myself an angry person.
Sure, there are things that happened in my past I find hard to let go. There are people who can set me off with a word. And, okay, occasionally, my anger is misplaced. But doesn’t that happen to everyone? I’m willing to bet that most of us have snapped at someone who didn’t deserve it. It’s normal. But normalcy, I’ve found, doesn’t always make right. We’re also conditioned to accept bullying, to accept being mistreated, to accept many forms of discrimination. And so I wonder…how much of this anger is healthy, and how much of it is harming us?
I went through a number of years where I couldn’t have a good relationship with my mother. I don’t mean where I didn’t, I mean where I couldn’t; it seemed like five minutes spent together would inevitably turn to bickering. We didn’t understand each other. My grades were a constant source of friction, then my perceived godlessness, my disrespect. She thought it had to do with my self-confidence, how much time I spent on the computer, the people I hung around, and the fact that I just didn’t seem to care anymore. This was true only in the most surface way. The thing is, most twelve-year-olds don’t have existential meltdowns. People assume you’re supposed to still be talking about your future as a vet, not questioning God and life and purpose, certainly not struggling with depression. Yet there I was.
My family didn’t know how to talk to me, help me, or even discipline me because they had no idea what I was going through. I don’t blame them; no matter how much you love someone, you’ll never completely understand what goes on in that person’s head. But as much as I don’t blame them now, oh, I did blame them then.
It’s hard when the people who are supposed to be closest to you don’t understand you. Hell, it’s hard enough when some of the most insignificant people in your life don’t understand you. We all have very different ways of thinking and different ways of dealing with things. What hurts you may not bother others, and what you laugh off could absolutely kill them.
Here’s my point: life isn’t easy. When people are thrown together in something as crazy as our reality, disagreements are bound to happen. People are going to hurt you, and they are going to make you angry. Sometimes it may be bad enough that you will want to hurt them. Sometimes it may be bad enough that you will want to hurt yourself. Sometimes it will be what haunts your dreams at night. You’ll spend years gnashing your teeth without knowing why. The entirety of your pain may boil down to a moment. The person you love most in the world will, somehow, someway, someday, let you down.
You are going to have to let it go.
You are going to have to let it go.
I wasted a lot of my time when I was younger being miserable. I came to understand eventually that I needed to be the one who pulled myself out of the pit I was in, but it’s taken me much longer to understand that I had managed, in my time spent there, to make that hole even deeper.
Keeping so much pain and anger inside of you is not healthy. Yes, you can wield your hate against people; you can turn it into a weapon, and you can turn it back on them. But if someone stabs you, stabbing them isn’t going to make your blood stop flowing. You can use your anger to push you forward, which might work until you realize that the person you’re angry with doesn’t care what you’re doing or, moreover, you don’t even like what you’re doing. You’re fulfilled by doing the things you care about because you find joy in them, not because someone else can’t stand them.
It sucks that you’ve been hurt. If you’re thinking you didn’t deserve it, you’re probably right. You probably didn’t. None of us really deserve the hateful things we do to each other. But keeping it with you is not going to help. It’s only going to hurt you more.
Stop hurting yourself.
See, forgiveness is not always for the person you’re forgiving. At least, it doesn’t always start out that way. Maybe someday you can forgive them because they are fatally human, but that’s not what I’m asking you to do right now. I’m asking you to forgive them so that you won’t have to lug those emotions around anymore. It doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in a position to have them hurt you again. It just means you have to try and let go of the pain they’ve wrought before.
It’s saying, “What you did may not be okay, but I will be okay.”
It’s saying, “What you did was not my choice, and I won’t carry it around with me anymore.”
It’s saying, “This is not worth ruining my life over.”
After that, you can figure out whether you want to split ties. You can decide whether that particular person’s company can make you happy in the future, whether it’s a relationship you want to keep, or whether you should go your separate ways. Whatever you choose is okay. You also don’t have to do this all at once. Go ahead and get that anger out. Write down, or say, or scream, exactly what has happened to make you feel the way you feel about a particular person. Often at the end, when you are raw and tired from the release, you’ll find it much easier to let all of that stuff go instead of packing it back inside.
I’m not an angry person. But at some points, I definitely have been. Now, if I am going to be angry, I am going to be angry at the things I can change, not at people. Christians say that we should love the sinner and hate the sin. Well, I am fully prepared to be furious at injustice, at the senseless suffering that surrounds me, at homophobia and racism and a myriad of other terrible things. Funnily enough, though, the only thing that can fix these—that can heal our broken world—is a whole lot of goodness and love. Hate doesn’t fix hate. Love fixes hate.
Forgive the people who have hurt you. Most of all, forgive yourself.
Then the healing can begin.