By William G. DeFoore
Anger and forgiveness seem to be opposites, and in many ways they are. You may be surprised to learn, however, that they have a lot in common. If you make anger the “bad guy,” you just won’t get to the forgiving part. Anger has to be fully understood and released before you get to move on to the freedom of forgiveness. Forgiveness has to be fully understood before you can let go of resentments and be emotionally whole and free.
It all starts with love. We are born with the need to love and be loved, and no one, even the best parents, can meet that need perfectly. Therefore we all feel hurt as a natural part of life. And of course, there are those hurts that are inflicted by abuse, abandonment and neglect, in some cases extreme.
From this pain, fear and anger naturally emerge. It makes perfect sense to be angry when you’re hurt. Anger is an important place to visit, you just don’t want to live there. Here is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness is the process of letting go of anger and resentment so that you can go on with your life. Forgiveness is for you, not for the forgiven. That is essential to understand.
Anger and forgiveness seem opposite, in the sense that anger involves an intense focus on the “wrongdoer,” and forgiveness involves shifting focus off of that person and moving on with your life. Yet there are some ways that anger and forgiveness are the same.
How Anger and Forgiveness Are The Same
Unhealthy anger and premature forgiveness both include:
-The “one-up” position
-Dishonoring to yourself
When you are angry at someone and blaming them, you are definitely judging them and putting yourself in a “one-up” position. The way you are dishonoring yourself here is that you are failing to look at your own creative responsibility in the situation. This is the hazard of the “blame game.” When you are into blaming others for your feelings, situation or plight, you are making yourself a victim and denying your own power and responsibility.
Premature forgiveness is forgiving someone when you’re not through being angry. You are still judging them, and therefore you’re seeing yourself as “one-up.” You are dishonoring yourself by pretending to forgive in your mind, when your heart and gut are still carrying anger and resentment.
Here are some important truths to remember when you’re angry:
-The other person is responsible for his/her actions that triggered your anger. You are not responsible for their behavior.
-You are responsible for your emotional reaction and for your actions that result from your emotional reaction. They are not responsible for your emotional reactions or your behavior that results.
Here are some other ways that anger and forgiveness are the same. When anger is healthy, and forgiveness is authentic, both involve:
-No more victim position
-Operating in a container of love
Both healthy anger and true forgiveness involve the power of healthy release and letting go, which takes you out of the victim position. This can only occur in a container of love. Anger can only be healthy when accompanied by some degree of love and wisdom, and forgiveness can only be true when it is based on love for yourself and/or another person.
Anger is the most misunderstood emotion. Most people just think it is bad. Here are some common misconceptions:
-Anger is a bad emotion and should always be controlled
-It is possible to be without anger completely
-It is wrong to be angry
-To be angry means to be out of control
-Anger is the same thing as aggression
-When a person is angry that means they are not safe to be around
These misconceptions result from the lack of understanding of healthy anger. Healthy anger is:
-A feeling you have when you’re threatened or opposed
-A protective emotion
-Powerful energy that can be used for positive outcomes
-Fuel for effective action
Have you ever taken action about something that made you angry? Think about MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. They got mad, and took action in healthy, appropriate ways to resolve the problem leading to their pain and anger. Here’s the bottom line on healthy anger:
Healthy anger fuels effective action!
Understanding True Forgiveness
True forgiveness is something that only your body can do. Surprised by that? Here’s the deal. Anger and resentments are held in the body as well as the mind, and your mind can decide to forgive long before your body is ready. Literally, your body has a mind of its own. Here are some things to understand about forgiveness:
-Forgiveness is not just a decision that you can make in your mind
-Forgiveness requires an emotional and physical release to be complete
-Your body is capable of holding onto anger long after your mind thinks it has forgiven
-Forgiveness does not absolve the wrongdoer—you don’t have that kind of power
-Withholding forgiveness does not hold the wrongdoer accountable—everyone is accountable whether you forgive or not
-Forgiving doesn’t mean you have decided that what the wrongdoer did is okay
-You don’t have to wait for the wrongdoer to change for you to forgive
-You won’t be able to forgive until you have fully examined the depth and extent of your wounds
-You won’t be able to forgive until you have acknowledged the full depths of your anger
-Forgiveness is for you
-Forgiveness is good for your health
-Forgiveness allows you to be more loving and joyful
You will know that you have forgiven when your body is relaxed and your breathing is deep and easy—while you visualize the wrongdoer and say, “I accept you for who you are, with all of your best and worst. I no longer need you to change. I forgive you for myself, so that I can be free. I forgive you so that I can let go of resentments and feel love and joy in my heart, mind and body.”
Your body will tell you if the forgiveness is complete.
Keys to Emotional Health and Freedom
-Take responsibility for your actions and emotions
-Do not accept blame for anything
-Place responsibility for others’ actions and emotions on them
-Do not blame anybody for anything
Here are some thoughts to consider about love:
-Love can be intoxicating, and therefore can lead to unhealthy decisions
-The need to love and be loved is the most powerful force in human nature
-Love is who you are in your spiritual essence
-Conditional love is not really love—it is more about control
-The only real love is unconditional love
-You will always remember those people in your life who have loved you unconditionally
-You are at your very best when you are experiencing unconditional love
Life starts with love. Anger is an inevitable emotion, which can temporarily or permanently take us away from love. When we work through our anger, we can forgive. Forgiveness is a return to love.
The greatest of these is love.
William G. DeFoore is a counselor, executive coach, speaker and president of the Institute for Personal and Professional Development. He has 37 years of experience in helping people achieve healthy, happy relationships. Get free information, watch videos and purchase books, CDs and downloads at www.AngerManagementResource.com.