Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Path to Peace

path to peace

Returning back to my posts on anger, I previously posted on the ring of anger.  The ring of anger keeps anger going without resolution.  Just avoiding the things that are unproductive and unhealthy with anger does not resolve the feeling of anger.  I would even go further and say that unless you do something with the anger you are likely "stuffing it." 

The path of peace is a better way to handle the feelings of anger.  Remember it is not anger that is good or bad it is the way you handle it that makes it good or bad.  The four ways that are the path to peace are Show it positive (express it), Shape it, Sort it out, and/or Surrender it. 

Show It Positive (Express It)

Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Don't let the sun go down on your anger, and don't give the Devil an opportunity.
Ephesians 4:25-27 (HCSB)

One of the signs of emotional maturity is the ability to express feelings in a healthy manner.  Expressing anger in a mature, clear, and healthy way is very difficult.  Part of the reason is that when you are angry the thinking/planning/organizing/rationalizing part of your brain is slowed way down.  The other part of your brain is sending the signal "punch this guy" or "run away."  The rational part of your brain is lucky to guide that into a verbal response which usually results in a verbal attack or quiet seething.  While the verbal response is desirable to a physical attack it is lacking in emotional maturity. 

Expressing emotions like anger in a mature manner involves several steps.  First you have to be aware that you are angry.  That might seem funny to you, but most people that struggle with anger are not aware of their anger until after they have said or done something that they regret or hurt another person.  You may have said or been told in a loud angry tone, "I AM NOT ANGRY!"  It is the contradiction that demonstrates a lack of awareness.  The second step is understanding why you are angry.  "What is the trigger?"  "What do I believe about the situation?"  "Do I understand why I am feeling this way?"  After you are aware of and understand your anger, then it is time to put it into words.  The typical suggestion is "When" (Fill in the trigger) "happens I feel angry."  There are many words that describe the feeling of anger that can be applied to different types of anger as well as different intensities of anger.  Find the right word.  It might be helpful to learn a vocabulary of anger (more in a future post).

Shape It

A ruler can be persuaded through patience, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
Proverbs 25:15 (HCSB)

In 1980 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver.  Candy Lightner was  devastated by the loss, as any parent would be.  She learned that the man that had killed her daughter would not spend much (if any) time in jail.  She felt enraged and helpless. Candy her mother promised herself that she would not let her daughter's death be meaningless.  Later that same year Candy formed Mother's Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) on September 5, 1980 (Cari's Birthday). 

Anger is a powerful force.  Undirected it is destructive to the victim and the perpetrator.  But if that force can be channeled it becomes an unstoppable movement for positive change.  How does one woman's anger become an international movement?  It is in the quality of shaping your anger to a positive outcome.  Now you may not start a national movement (or maybe you might), but you can use that same force to accomplish some good in your life and the life of others.  It takes support from friends and family. A willingness to let go of the destructive side of anger, and an unwavering commitment to see that anger motivate you to greater action.  It will take greater effort and thoughtfulness, but the wonderful thing about anger is how incredibly motivating it is.  Use that motivation or energy to do something positive.  It could be as simple as using it for an intense physical workout at the gym or as dramatic as starting a movement that radically changes your world.  Whatever it is channel it into something good!

Sort It Out

But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Fool!' will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, 'You moron!' will be subject to hellfire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you're on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.
Matthew 5:22-25 (HCSB)

Once a person has understood there anger it is beneficial to do something to sort it out.  Sorting it out will often involve going to the person that you have offended or who has offended you.  If you desire to sort it it out you have to approach the situation with a sincere desire to make things right.  It will not work if you go with the intent of justifying hurtful, harsh, or demanding manner then it will not likely work.  But if you go with grace, leniency, and a desire for reconciliation then you can have hope of sorting it out.  The process of sorting things out can be very complicated and difficult.  It can also be very time consuming.  Often it is not immediate so patience is a must.  What is more is sorting things out with another assumes that the other person is in a place to want to do the same.  Demanding that a person who is not ready to sort things out with you cooperate with your effort and "good will" is a sure recipe for frustration and increased anger.  This will further strain the relationship.  Just remember this:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone's eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:17-18 (HCSB)

If it is not possible or if it is not practical to sort it out with another person sometimes you can sort out your anger by your self or with a trusted person than can listen to you and give honest feedback.  The goal of sorting it out on your own is to take your understanding and awareness to a deeper level.  Greater understanding will help you then to identify the things that you can change in yourself or in your environment to avoid triggers or resolve the anger that you experience.  Sorting it out will often lead to some level of acceptance for the way things are.  Not that you have to judge the situation as just, fair, or good, but that you accept it.  Once you are able to accept it then you can move to the next stage on the path to peace. 

Surrender It

I view surrendering anger from a spiritual view point.  It is hard for me to imagine surrendering anger from any other perspective.  I see surrender as different than forgetfulness or not bringing it back up.  Forgetfulness (if such a thing is possible) is unmindful.  It is a type of self-denial.  You have to forget being hurt and constantly work a releasing the hurt over and over and over again.  This may not be so hard for minor offences, but when someone has deeply hurt you this constant state of trying to release the hurt is in itself hurtful.  You have to deny you hurt, but how do you deny what you feel.  You have to deny yourself.  Self-transcendence is an extremely difficult road to take.  Few (if any) ever arrive.  When you fail at this self-denial then you are likely to beat up your self or have others beat you up emotionally by saying, "Why can you just get over it."  Not bringing it back up is also a type of self-denial.  Forgetfulness denies how you feel.  Not bringing it back up denies what you think.  You are reminded of the thing that made you angry and think on it, but do not express it.  You try to push it away from your awareness.  What I think happens is that the thought that is put away in an effort to not bring it up lies in our sub-conscious waiting until some other event reawakens our awareness of the thought.  Often this repeated awakening of the angry thought intensifies every time and eventually leads to resentment and/or forceful expression of the angry thought in some future discussion. 

So what then if denying how you think or feel does not lead to resolution then how does one take this path to peace?  Surrender is the key. 

sur-ren-der:

to yield (something) to the possession or power of another
  to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield

I use surrender in both senses of giving an object up as well as giving one's self up.  The object that you surrender is anger.  You yield or turn over the anger to the power of another.  To whom or what do you surrender the anger to?  Well I am convinced that spiritually speaking no one can receive someone else's anger by way of surrender.  It can only be received by another person through force, retaliation, or retribution.  I believe that only God can receive our anger by way of surrender.  Consider that surrendering anger to God is being obedient.

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.
Romans 12:19 (HCSB)

What is more surrendering your anger to God is a statement that you trust Him to work it out for the best.  When I try to avenge my anger I am just as likely to be angry in an unjustified or extreme way.  God on the other hand will execute justice in perfection.  What is more if the person is repentant it gives you a path toward restored relationship.  If you do not surrender your anger then even if the other person comes to you and says, "I am sorry" you will not have freedom to reconcile until you surrender your anger. 

Surrendering involves self-surrender.  First you submit to God.

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:6-7 (HCSB)

Then you submit to others.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (HCSB)

Even submit to those that are against you. 

But I tell you, don't resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Matthew 5:39-41 (HCSB)
You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:43-45 (HCSB)

But this is too hard you say.  I agree.  I think apart from a relationship with God through Christ this type of submission is impossible.  It requires that you have honor toward Christ, relating to God, and filled by the Spirit.

... but be filled by the Spirit... submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:18 and 21 (HCSB)

The scope of submitting is far beyond what can be summed up in this brief post.  What I have done is given you a path.  A Path to Peace.  Now whether you choose to walk this path is up to you.  I pray that you find it and that the Spirit of God so fill you that you arrive safely in God's peace. 

God Bless You

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