“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
I think most of us have heard this saying or something similar, but they all mean the same thing. When we hold onto anger it only hurts ourselves. And the Bible has a lot of verses on dealing with anger:
“’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.” (Eph. 4:26-27)
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
I recently was in a conversation at a family gathering with my grandmother. She is someone I have always loved and trusted and looked up to. But while we were talking, she said something that really upset me. And the more I thought about it and stewed over it the angrier I became. So much so that I disappeared when my grandmother left, just so I wouldn’t have to tell her goodbye. And then I didn’t talk to her for weeks, except for a text message a few days later letting her know how she hurt me.
And almost every night I’d come home and be angry with her for what she said. I even promised myself that I wouldn’t talk to her until she reached out to me. But then a month later my dad called me. My grandmother had fallen off of her porch. She broke her back and came so close to hitting her head on a rock and leaving us.
I knew I was going to have to “break my promise” and call her because there was no more time for anger and grudges. So I reached out to a Christian friend, a former Bible study group leader, and asked for Biblical advice on forgiveness. Towards the end of our conversation she asked if I was ready to forgive … even if she didn’t apologize. Apologies are great, but they shouldn’t affect our ability to forgive. Jesus forgave our sins before we were even here to apologize. He forgave us knowing we would continue to sin. He forgave us because He loves us.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
I chose to forgive my grandmother before I called her. And I am so glad that I did. My grandmother did apologize, which I appreciated. But I apologized too, for holding this anger towards her for so long, and that it took an emergency like this to finally realize how wrong I was.
It’s hard to forgive, and it’s even harder to forgive when there isn’t an apology first. But we’re called to live like Jesus, which means we’re called to forgive each other.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31–32)