Anger in relationships is inevitable. It’s impact can vary from emotional coldness to outright expressions of frustration. Often anger results from unmet expectations and frustrations that develop but are not dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner. Learning to overcome anger, a major impediment and destroyer of relationships is critical to healthy friendships.
Short term anger is common to many of us when we let hurt feelings drag into long-term frustration. Not dealing with anger can be damaging, as anger has the power to break down relationships. It can also lead us into darkness and tie us up emotionally. One skill is to learn to “keep your spirit open” to the other person. All that means is working to stay open and communicative with the person and not shut them out. Those who fail to deal with frustrations and hurt feelings are pushing that part of their friendship into a corner.
The net result of unresolved anger is a power struggle. Neither one wants to own up to their contribution that led to the relational conflict. Neither one wants to appear “weak” or give up the strength of their position. It is a battle for who is in control, and it often takes time and wasted energy for power issues to come to the surface in a relationship.
Instead of giving up their rights to “be mad” or “right” or even “heard,” the friends begin using emotional “rights and lefts” to make a point, further alienating the person, and holding onto their seemingly high ground in the conflict. They may even attempt to use the conflict to demand changes in the person and/or the relationship.
I have found three stages develop when two people get locked in a relational power struggle: The first is when issues are raised but never resolved; the second is when the issue is ignored, the participants drop the issue, but then tend to pick on one another; the third is when one or the other person lash out and attack the other.
Read Colossians 3:12-14.
The apostle Paul instructed the believers in first century Colosse to regularly “throw off the old ways of doing life” (i.e., practicing unforgiveness, being angry, etc.), and regularly “put on the new self.” That meant Jesus people were expected and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live like Jesus did. In verse five, Paul said to put to death whatever belonged to the sinful (i.e., old) nature; in verse 8, he said to rid yourself of old attitudinal and behavioral patterns like lying to one another (verse 9); in verse 12 he said as God’s chosen people “to clothe yourselves” with new life patterns such as kindness, humility, and gentleness. He added in verse 13 to bear with one another and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another.
How do you practice verses 12 and 13 in daily life? Here are five keys: first, recognize your need to obey King Jesus and act like one of His people: second, be gentle and tenderhearted toward the person with whom you are having a conflict; third, acknowledge that your friend is hurting and admit when you have been offensive; fourth, listen carefully to what they say is the cause of the conflict between the two of you; last, ask for forgiveness, and/or give it.
Live communally. Jesus expects us to not let the sun go down on our anger. You and I have to face it and resolve it. He commands us to forgive as He, our Lord, forgave us. Use the keys!
Love is a verb,
©2018 by Mike Olejarz