At our wedding, I left cards at each table for guests to write their words of advice. All of the cards are now in a scrapbook, and I appreciate them all. I’ve looked back through them a few times, but when I think of them, I always think about how so many people wrote, “Don’t go to bed angry.”
There is much to be said about those words of advice. Sometimes, we may believe the myths about anger and tell ourselves that it’s wrong to be angry and we should never allow ourselves to feel angry. In reality, anger is an emotion, just like any others. There are righteous reasons to feel angry and there are selfish reasons to feel angry… and hold on to anger.
In Ephesians, 4:26-27 (NIV), we read,
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
IN your anger… don’t sin. Sin is being selfish. In anger, it would mean putting your own feelings before anyone else and clinging to your “right” to feel angry if someone insults, disappoints, frustrates, or otherwise lets you down. Yes, you may have a right to feel angry, but dwelling on it and acting accordingly.
It means the jabs. The intentional efforts to hurt your spouse because you feel hurt. Retaliation. Badmouthing. Posting on social media about how horrible your spouse is. Sinful behavior in anger takes on so many forms, but the idea is the same. If you use your hurt feelings and anger as an excuse to lash out… it’s wrong. It’s a step toward being selfish… and selfish behavior (behavior that is self-centered at the expense of others’ well-being) always gives the devil a foothold!
One of my favorite quotes about holding on to anger … and my apologies that I don’t know the source… goes something like this – “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Don’t hold on to your anger. It’s not worth the damage it can cause. Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying someone else’s actions were okay… Forgiveness means you’re going to choose to show them love anyway. Trust may need some work to rebuild, but bitterness and resentment don’t have to be permanent fixtures in your marriage.
When Christ died on the cross for your forgiveness, He was not condoning your sins… He was loving you in spite of them.
Keri Kitchen is a devoted wife and mother, blogger, licensed mental health counselor, and founder of The Carys Rainn Foundation. To read more about what God is doing in her life, visit her blog at www.aftertherainn.com