(In my last post, I stated that a primary reason God gave us emotions is to force us to need one another. Here’s a story about how that has played out in my life.)
An auto shop tried to scam me last year. Either that or they were just totally incompetent, but either way, I almost got ripped off. Long story, but basically they tried to charge me for a service that they didn’t really do, and if I hadn’t noticed, I would have driven off just having spent my money on nothing.
After sorting things out, I was driving away and just fuming with anger. Which was extremely uncomfortable, because there was no place for me to really put the anger. What was I going to do – go back to the shop and cuss the guy out? Or maybe develop a nice case of road rage by pointing my anger at all the slowest drivers on the road?
The alternative was to take the “spiritual” route: I could “repent” of my anger and ask God to take it away; declare that I’d “forgiven” the guy at the shop (read: stuffed my anger down), turn on some worship music and try to forget about it.
I’m not trying to mock true repentance and forgiveness here. I just think that these often get used as spiritual-sounding code words for the avoidance of uncomfortable emotions that we don’t know how to deal with. We should repent of sin and sinful emotions; not justified anger towards deceit. And forgiveness doesn’t come by trying to shut our minds off from that which has hurt us. As CS Lewis said, real forgiveness has to begin with looking steadily at the wrong that was done “in all its horror, dirt, meanness and malice”. Forgiveness is not intended to be used as a free pass that gets us out of feeling uncomfortable emotions.
“Maybe I can call Jerry.”
Jerry is a good and wise friend of mine. So as I was driving home, I dialed him up. He answered. I told him I was calling because I needed to connect about this experience I’d just had, and I told him all about it. I went through the details of the story, and as I did so, I let myself feel the frustration and anger that I felt about what had happened. I let my emotions show themselves through my voice, so it wasn’t just me saying I was angry, but also showing it.
And then Jerry did something very powerful.
He didn’t just listen and understand. He let himself feel. He showed with his voice that he was right there with me, not just agreeing that this was something that could make one angry, but even getting a little angry himself.
Almost instantly, I felt my burden lightened. I felt the anger flowing out of my body.
Jerry had, in a sense, let himself suffer along with me. Christlike, he “incarnated” himself into my situation, bearing it along with me, and this brought healing. I could still see the injustice and know it as wrong, but the anger was lessened. It had served its purpose.
And I was left with a gift
And so, what could have been nothing more than a frustrating experience actually left me with a gift: I had shared a moment of connection with my friend. I vulnerably called him in a moment of need, asking for his help. I found the healing my heart needed and my friendship was deepened in a way that never would have happened had I simply told myself, “Oh Tim, it’s not a big deal. Just forget about it. Get over it.”
Thanks to my anger.
Some relevant Scripture:
Romans 12:15; Genesis 45:1-7; Ephesians 4:16; Mark 14:32-34; Lamentations 3:48-50