How anger brought me closer to my friend

4 02 2010

(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?

I suppose that's one way to "point" your anger. I may have retouched this pic a little.

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.

So, there I was, fuming with anger at the auto shop that had just tried to scam me, stuck with all my anger, all my rage.  And I prayed about it.  Praying didn’t fix it, but one thought did come to mind:

“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 empathized.

We are more powerful when we are united.

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

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3 responses

4 02 2010
jen

i liked this post! you also did a good editing job with that picture.

oddly enough, you recently did the same thing for me!

6 02 2010
Jomo

i was reflecting on this post in conjunction with your post a couple times back about the interconnectivity of thoughts/emotions/actions and that got me thinking about the value of the RSA. The RSA, at first glance, is very much the bastion of the first picture you drew, the thoughts => feelings => actions paradigm. However, sometimes things stumble across being effective without knowing why. Why I do an RSA, I think that I am in fact acting, feeling, and thinking, and that i can find greater spiritual health, greater wholeness, through the process.

First, to do an RSA requires just that, TO DO. To do what? to reflect. Reflection is one of the most sadly underpracticed disciplines in our society and our church, but it is so vital. So many great things come from reflection. I remember a sermon I heard once where the pastor was talking about something, maybe anger, and he told a story where he had gotten some input, hadn’t liked it at first, but then he said, “I thought about it more and…” He reflected, he saw the wisdom, applied the input, and his life changed. 5 years later I don’t remember what his point was, but I remember that reflection is crucial to a healthy life. Doing an RSA, if nothing else, demands reflection.

Second, an RSA causes one to identify and sort out feelings. Emotions are sometimes the stepchild of the process, but they are there. For many I’ve known, the process of the RSA is the only time they stop to think about “was I angry or sad? why was I sad? I don’t think of myself as a sad person.” Especially among men, the identification and acknowledgement of emotions is sorely underpracticed. I think with women, the more common oversight is to fail to admit to having the “wrong” emotion. That is, feeling sad when society would dictate they are happy, or vice versa. Again, although perhaps an afterthought, the RSA invites people to explore emotions.

Finally, and I don’t need to say much here, the RSA causes one to explore thoughts. Again, I am in favor or all forms of reflection.

One last thing, and the reason i post this comment to this post, rather than to your neato diagram one. RSA’s often call on us to reflect on our thoughts and emotions in some form of community. I have done many RSA’s with trusted brothers, and shared others that I initially completed on my own.

I don’t mean this comment to be an RSA apology. Only to say that I think you are right, action/thought/feeling must be in harmony with each other. and I think the RSA actually supports your position, if we reflect on what it really does.

j

11 02 2010
AH

I like this… I think my favorite though, is when being angry with someone brings you closer to that person. There is something miraculous about reconciliation after a really serious conflict. Somehow, I think the more conflict that is overcome, the better the relationship, because really… conflict is a given if you’re actually IN a relationship with someone… Sinner + Sinner = Conflict
Summed up: “Without mistakes there is no forgiving, without forgiving, there is no love” – Mother Theresa.

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