When you have been abused, you eventually get angry. It’s only natural. Many people think that this means you are harboring anger. It can be very discouraging & painful for you, because so many people will tell you you need to let it go, it was so long ago so why are you still holding onto this & other painful, invalidating things. Christians often will quote verses on forgiveness & make you feel guilty for being angry. I actually was told once by a Christian lady, “God says forgive so I do it. I don’t know what your problem is.” *sigh* I can’t even express how ashamed of myself I felt when she said that.
I always find it interesting that these judgmental people never have good advice on how to forgive, but they sure are quick to tell us we need to do it!
The truth of the matter is anger is not easy to deal with. Some people are very blessed & are able to let it go easily, but they are pretty rare. The rest of us have to feel it, & get really angry before we can let it go. Often several times.
Anger can also be somewhat deceptive. You can think you are done, you’ve forgiven someone, when suddenly something triggers anger at that person all over again. I experienced that a few months ago regarding my ex husband. I thought I’d forgiven him long ago, then after my mother bringing him up in conversation, it triggered a flashback which made me very angry at some things he had done to me. It was frustrating because I was sure I’d completely forgiven him.
Anger is a complex emotion that demands to be heard & dealt with in some way. So long as you are trying to deal with it however works best for you though, this doesn’t mean you are harboring anger, resentful, bitter, etc.
Harboring anger, however, is different.
Harboring anger involves not trying to let the anger go. People who have no desire to forgive are harboring anger.
It also includes a disdain & intense hatred for the person who abused you,
Harboring anger also means you don’t care why the person hurt you- you only care that you were hurt. A mature person tries to understand why someone acted the way they did rather than only knowing their actions. They know if they can understand, even a little, it may help them to forgive the other person & not take on the blame for that person’s actions.
People who harbor anger are very bitter. For example, if someone has a spouse who cheated, she assumes all men are cheaters or he assumes all women are cheaters.
These people also hold grudges for years. They can still be just as angry today as they were the day they were hurt 37 years ago.
These people also talk badly about whoever hurt them at every opportunity. Those who aren’t holding onto anger are different- if they discuss that person, they do so in a matter of fact way, without name calling or insulting.
Today I encourage you, Dear Reader, to examine your actions. Are you harboring anger or are you angry but trying to forgive your abuser? If the latter, then please, stop listening to those who are trying to convince you that you are a bad person for feeling the way you do! Ignore the ignorance of other people, & do what you need to do to heal & forgive!
5 responses to “What Exactly Is Harboring Anger?”
In my experience, being angry means you have to forgive that person of their wrongdoing. If you are bitter that means you have not forgiven that person and may not want to. A person who has been abused will naturally harbor anger and bitterness, especially if you experienced that abuse as a child. How can you not? If your father hit you at a young age, it teaches you in your heart that fathers or men hit. As you get older you mentally learn that is not true, but your heart will not forget that lie. That hurts on all levels.
Everyone needs to forgive, but forgiveness is a process. Especially with childhood abuse, it could take years. I’d say it took me about 6 years of actively trying to forgive my abuser before I totally forgave him and that was 10 years after the abuse happened. Some people experience supernatural forgiveness and are able to forgive instantly. But for most the pain runs too deep and it doesn’t happen that fast. And for some, anger becomes a defense mechanism. That was definitely true for me. If anger is your defense mechanism you will not let go of it until you feel safe.
In my experience in counseling and inner healing prayer (both as a helpee and helper), here’s what you need to do to forgive:
1) Mourn what was taken from you. It could be your innocence, your childhood, your trust. It could be the parent or spouse you never had but always wanted and needed. Mourn those things first. This can be humbling because it means you have to admit that you were hurt. But if you don’t mourn, you will not want to forgive. Allow yourself to mourn, but not forever.
2) Ask God, “What lie did I learn from this?” It could be that all men/women are bad, that you can’t trust anyone, that it was your fault, etc. There may be more than one lie.
3) Ask God, “What is the truth?” Try to listen for the answer. It will be positive like, “You can trust Me.” Or “It was never your fault.” It may even be something like, “Your parent was abused too and is hurting too.” But if the answer is not positive, it is not from God. If you hear something hurtful or judgmental like, “You never prayed enough,” it is not God and throw it away. The truth may be something you already know in your mind, but it’s something you still need to know you in your heart. Once you hear it, receive it and hold onto it.
4.) If anger is your defense mechanism, you may need to ask, “Jesus, where were you? Where were you the first time my abuser abused me?” If you are angry at God, you can ask, “Why didn’t you stop it?” These are natural, honest questions to have. Again, listen for God’s answer. He may say something like, “I was there with you the whole time.” He may show you a specific memory to confirm that it’s really Him and He was there and He remembers. Then ask Him, “Is it safe? Am I safe? How can I know that I will be safe?” Again, listen. He will tell you. Again, if the answer is not positive, it is not Him. The truth is God is our protector and will always be there, but sometimes we need to hear it from Him and nobody else in order to believe it.
5.) Finally, pray to forgive your abuser. Say the words, “I forgive __ for __.” Actually say what they did to you. Get it out. Then pray a blessing over your abuser. Bless them with the opposite of what they did to you. “I pray __ will have healthy relationships, will trust others, etc.”
Those steps helped me the most and I know they’ve helped others at my church that I’ve prayed with too. I hope someone can read this and it helps them find peace. Forgiveness is a process that takes a long time. You may need to repeat those steps every couple of months until you can totally forgive your abuser. But you should feel some sense of release each time. For me, I had to repeat these steps about every 3-6 months for about 2 years before I was totally able to forgive my abuser. Once I was able to do it, I felt totally free. I hope that others can feel free of anger and unforgiveness too.
I want to say also that there is nothing wrong with feeling angry. In fact, if you were abused, you can count that God is angry about it too. He loves you and wants the best for you and is never happy when someone hurts us. But forgiveness will help you to finally feel free and whole. Again, it takes time and don’t beat yourself up if it takes longer than you’d like. Healing is a painful process, but it will be okay in the end.
LikeLiked by 2 people
That is very well put & I agree with everything you said. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
I know it’s been quite a while since you posted this, heavenlymist (lovely name, btw!), but in case you’re still following, I want to let you know how much the following spoke to me:
“And for some, anger becomes a defense mechanism. That was definitely true for me. If anger is your defense mechanism you will not let go of it until you feel safe.”
A whole bunch of things just clicked into place, and I feel so much more relaxed.
LikeLiked by 2 people
First: forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same. I can forgive someone who hurt me from a distance. To forgive is very simple; it means to give up the right to return hurt for hurt. Forgiveness requires only one person to act but reconciliation always requires 2. Second: to be angry is not always a sin. We are not sinning when we become angry with someone who has hurt us maliciously and purposely. Dr. Henry Cloud has likened anger to physical pain. Pain is useful in telling us that something in our bodies is broken and needs treatment. Anger tells us that something in our relationship is broken and needs to be fixed. And sometimes the only way to fix that relationship is to go no contact.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Unfortunately I think many people think that isn’t forgiveness & to forgive you need to reconcile with that person when that truly isn’t the case! That forgive & forget thing (that truly isn’t always wise). I hope those people read your comment & my post & realize the error of that thinking. Thank you for sharing!
LikeLiked by 1 person