Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Recognizing Anger: Essential for Forgiveness?

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:
Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 223 - 225:

Would you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • Without anger, most forgiveness is superficial.
  • Genuine forgiveness almost always includes anger.

Long experience helping people deal with dysfunctional family issues lead us to agree with those statements. However, many people are bothered by them. They tend to have a certain amount of mistrust concerning anger, and are especially uncomfortable connecting it with something like forgiveness. But the fact that anger and forgiveness tend to be intimately connected. In most cases, we cannot really forgive until we have dealt with our anger. To put it another way, working through anger is often a crucial step in the process of forgiveness.

A lot of confusing ideas circulate about anger. Many of us were brought up to believe that all anger is wrong, even sinful. But anger is a fact of life. It happens to us. We experience it. What do we do then? Many of us play word games with it. We say we are “a little irritated,” or “out of sorts,” or “a bit upset.” We go to great lengths to avoid coming right out and saying, “I’m just plain mad.”

But the fact is, we often are just plain mad – and there is not necessarily anything wrong with that. The emotion of anger, in and of itself, is not wrong. Let me say again, to make sure you get it: the emotion of anger, in and of itself, is not wrong. It just is. It is part of the “standard equipment” that comes with being a human being. It is what we do with our anger that makes it either right or wrong, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.

We can use our anger wrongly, or express it in unhealthy ways. A simple example is when we “fly off the handle” at someone we love without good cause. Unhealthy anger separates us from people we love and want to be with.

But we can also use our anger for healthy purposes. For example, anger can energize us to overcome some challenge or obstacle. Who among us has not had the experience of “getting good and mad” at some stubborn problem, and finding that the energy produced by the anger gets us over the hump?

Anger can also alert us to the need to set boundaries, or limits, with other people. It is one of the ways we protect ourselves.


Lewis B. Smeades in “Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve”:

Healthy anger drives us to do something to change what makes us angry; anger can energize us to make things better. Hate does not want to change things for the better: it wants to make things worse. (pg. 21)

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)