Dr. Wall explains that there are two sides of anger: a good side and a bad side. We need to learn how to listen to the good side of anger and ignore the bad side of anger.
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
Recently, I introduced the concept of “Ground Rules” on this blog (see “An Introduction to Ground Rules”). A Ground Rule is a promise that you make to yourself and God, and sometimes with your spouse, that you will not let anyone else or any voice or temptation in your head talk you out of keeping. This promise can be very helpful, because sometimes temptation’s voice is so loud and banging against your better judgment, that the promise you made yourself, when you were in a calmer place, can overpower it.
A very important Ground Rule in the area of anger is:
I am never justified to take revenge on my family.
Why would anyone need a rule like that? What person would take revenge on his family? Because anger is very subtle and, if you let it, it will tell you to hurt your spouse (or child or anyone else) if he or she has hurt you. If you hurt back you are inviting the other to hurt you back and on and on we go.
Look, the revenge I’m talking about here is NOT literally taking out a gun (although I’m sure that happens way too often). The revenge I’m discussing here seems much more innocent, but really is not. Here are a few examples I’ve heard recently:
-If she’s going to treat me that way, I’ll just stay longer at work
-I’ll not touch her or make love to her
-I’ll quit cleaning the house
-I’ll yell at him in front of the kids
-I’ll spend money even though we agreed not to
-I’ll withdraw downstairs to the TV
-I’ll talk to this nice guy at work, who listens to me
-I’ll find someone else to talk to
-I’ll drink even more, hang out with my friends more
-I’ll yell louder
-I won’t say a word
-I’ll say meaner things
-I’ll make threats to leave
-I’ll leave and won’t come home
-I won’t tell her where I am
-I’ll call him a million times
-I’ll text him mean things
-I’ll tell him I hate being married to him
-I’ll tell her she’s fat
-I’ll tell him he’s the worst husband ever
-I’ll remind him over and over how he’s failed me
If anger tells you to do one of the above or something similar, what do you think anger will be telling your spouse? If you are both listening to the dark side of anger you are going to wear each other out. Then you’ll divorce each other, but neither has learned to handle the dark side of anger and you’ll do it to your next spouse, because sooner or later he or she will hurt you, too. This time the hurt will just be from a different person, but the anger and the voice of revenge will still be there, only louder and since you are used to listening to it you’ll do the same thing. Great. We may as well figure this out now.
There’s a good side of anger and a bad side of anger. The Bible says:
Be angry and sin not.
The good side of anger is that anger says there is something wrong. That is very helpful. When you first hear anger’s voice, you need to sit down and ask yourself,
“What am I angry about? Why am I so angry?”
That would be a good thing to figure out. Then you can address whatever it is that is out of alignment. Maybe you are tired, stressed, overworked, lonely, or feeling ignored. Whatever it is, deal with that.
But if you ignore anger, the bad side of anger will take over and tell us to get even. If we let anger get that far in the family, we will self-destruct. If you hurt me and I’m angry enough and anger tells me to hurt you back to get even with you, and you listen to anger enough. you will need to hurt me again and on and on we go until there’s nothing left. The curious thing about all of this is that it is Jesus’ much misunderstood statement to
turn the other cheek
that eventually STOPS this craziness. Two things happen: If someone finally stops hurting back then the other person doesn’t have to hurt back either so the revenge on both parts stops OR one person quits getting revenge, but the other keeps hurting back and eventually the person, who is getting revenge, is no longer getting revenge: He is face to face with the fact that he is intentionally hurting the other person just because.
Did you catch that? This is a little easier to explain in person than in writing. Let’s try again with an example of not turning of other cheek:
Person A unintentionally hurts Person B….Person B hurts Person A in revenge intentionally….Person A intentionally hurts Person B and so on until there is nothing left.
Now with turning of other cheek:
Person A unintentionally hurts Person B…Person B turns his cheek, the hurting stops.
Person A unintentionally hurts Person B…Person B intentionally hurts Person A in revenge, Person A turns the other cheek…Person B stops hurting A also (it’s hard to mean to someone who’s nice to you)
Person A unintentionally hurts Person B…Person B intentionally hurts Person A in revenge; Person A turns the other cheek…Person B intentionally hurts Person A anyway…Person A turns the other cheek again and Person B keeps repeating until Person B wears Person A out and finally Person A loses it and gets revenge on Person B and then, if Person B is really cynical and diabolical, Person B will blame Person A for losing it!
Person A unintentionally hurts Person B…Person B intentionally hurts Person A in revenge; Person A turns the other cheek…Person B intentionally hurts Person A anyway…Person A turns the other cheek again (this is not easy to do)…Person B keeps hurting Person A with Person A not retaliating. Eventually, Person B is confronted with the fact that Person B is a complete jerk and Person A hasn’t had to point this out. Eventually Person B will stop intentionally hurting Person A and the relationship can heal.
The latter is NOT a given. This certainly didn’t happen to Jesus. They finally killed him after all. Or Person A may never hurt Person B, but Person B hurts Person A just because. Nevertheless, doing the right thing is it’s own reward. You do the right thing, because it is the right thing, not to try to get your way. It’s not always easy to do the right thing. But it is right to do the right thing.
If both the husband and wife are doing the right thing, ah, now there’s a marriage that will last.
Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bing in Ames, Iowa click here
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bing in Des Moines click here