June 6, 2016

By Nate Wagner

Relationships are difficult. Regardless of the type of relationship (parent-child, boss-employee, sibling, friend, boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife, neighbor) there will be conflict and offense. We have all experienced the consequences of the difficult work of relationships, and we all know what happens when those fractured relationships are not properly mended… they fester, become infected, and sometimes ultimately destroy the relationship.

Often the fuel that feeds the fire of broken relationships is anger.

Anger ultimately gives us power. This is why it rears its head in fractured relationships. Whether anger is the initiating weapon, or the retaliatory strike, it is present in hurting relationships and provides a false sense of power to the one(s) who wield it. 

Anger ultimately gives us power. This is why it rears its head in fractured relationships. Whether anger is the initiating weapon, or the retaliatory strike, it is present in hurting relationships and provides a false sense of power to the one(s) who wield it.

This anger can come in many shapes and sizes: avoidance, fury, withholding, withdrawal, sarcasm, duplicity, annoyance, frustration, gossip, slander, and resentment to name a few.

This is not to say that all anger is bad. Psalm 4:4 tells us to “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” We see Jesus displaying righteous anger as he entered his Father’s temple and turned over tables. But, like Jesus, the end goal of our anger must be to reconcile and glorify God. 

 

But, like Jesus, the end goal of our anger must be to reconcile and glorify God.

The emotion of anger, and all its associated emotions, is communicating the message to us that something is wrong in our relational world. To ignore this warning is folly. To act on it apart from the grace of Christ can be deadly for relationships. Here are five practical steps to take in the process of using anger to reconcile relationships.

 

  1. Reorder your world with Christ at the Center. Remember who you are in relation to the creator of the universe. Recall that whatever wrong has been done to you, an imperfect human, that same wrong, plus all other wrongs were first committed against the Lord of heaven and earth. His response was to send his son for our reconciliation, and his aim was for you to reflect his image in that way. Practically, use prayer as the mechanism by which you reorder your world.
  2. Initiate difficult conversations with those whom your relationship is damaged. Whether you are the one in the wrong or you believe the other person to be in the wrong, it is your burden to initiate the conversation if it is on your heart and mind. Waiting for the other person to initiate is a deadly trap that will lead to bitterness. If you find yourself short on motivation to do this, study the ways that Christ initiated with you, Romans 5:8-10: “—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if while we were enemies of God we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
  3. Don’t dismiss “small” feelings.  Often we will put off confronting our brothers and sisters because our feelings are small. By minimizing our internal experience, we alienate ourselves from the grace of pulling weeds while they are small. If we believe that the wrongs we commit or are committed against us will heal just with time, we are kidding ourselves. Those “small” weeds will turn into trees requiring invasive means to remove as more time passes. Keep short accounts, and be mindful and sensitive to those around you. Begin a daily habit of reconciling through forgiveness (both giving and seeking) in all of your relationships.
  4. Ask for forgiveness rather than “apologizing”. By now we are all familiar with the “non-apology apology”. The words “I’m sorry” have become trite and represent a person who is more mournful that they were caught, or do not truly believe that they have wronged someone. When approaching someone after wronging her, ask her for forgiveness. State plainly the wrong you have committed and do not seek to justify it or minimize it. This will be a game changer in your appreciation for both causing harm and in increasing how you value genuine forgiveness.
  5. Give forgiveness in abundance. Ultimately, your have been set free to forgive. No longer do you have to hold grudges, value your rights above all else, or seek justice for yourself. Don’t believe this? Study the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Remember the debt that you have been forgiven, the price for which you were purchased, and respond by forgiving abundantly. Not only is this a good and proper response to grace, it is also freedom from living as one who is more concerned with their “debtors” than they are with God’s glory.

Questions for further thought:

  • Does my “niceness” get in the way of reconciling relationships?
  • Have I become calloused to my feelings? The Feelings of others?
  • Do I trust God with my anger? Do I attempt to hide my anger from God and from my family in Christ?
  • Who is the Lord pressing me to forgive and seek forgiveness from?

Go here for last week's message on anger.