The energy sapping reality of anger

“To be good is to be in harmony with oneself.  Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.”

~Oscar Wilde, In Conversation

These last few days in Virginia have been a nightmare.  After several warm, beautiful days, a front pushed its way into the state bringing with it much cooler temperatures and an intense amount of rain lasting for roughly three days.  This is the type of weather that anyone who suffers from chronic pain just dreads. The cold gets down into the muscle and bone producing aches, pains, and just a general feeling of lethargy.  As one who also suffers from fibromyalgia, the last few days have been punctuated with sleepless nights, pain-filled days, and left me feeling rather unproductive, uninspired, and generally lazy. Yes, I have to admit that for the last few days I have been enjoying marathon runs of my favorite home improvement shows on HGTV, rather than attempting to clean the house or even write.  The brain fog has been a bit formidable and the body a bit tender to even think about attempting anything overly strenuous, or at least that is how I have justified these last few lazy days.

Anyone who suffers from chronic illness knows that days like these tend to be the norm; it does not really matter if it is rainy or not, there are days when the body does not want to do anything more than flop around the house like a rag doll.  Energy is at a premium and every activity needs to be well thought out before making a decision to engage in anything overly demanding. I really love Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory (can be read here: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ ),

Energy is a premium and every activity needs to be well thought out before making a decision to engage in anything overly demanding.

there is only so much energy and every activity requires that one of those precious spoons is given away. If those spoons are just thrown about willy nilly, they are not there when they are truly needed.  I have been a slow learner when it comes to hoarding my spoons, I normally just push myself until the body gives out and hope for the best; that best usually finds me flat out on the couch in a matter of hours, exhausted and in too much pain to move.

Here is the crutch of my problem, I love people and by nature I am a protector. There is just something about people that tugs at my heart and I want to make sure that I meet their needs, have their back, and, most of all, that I have the same place in their hearts that they occupy in mine.  This, I have found, has been an incredible drain on my energy reserves.  Due to the fact that I love people, I work desperately hard to make sure that I please them.  Yes, I am a certified people-pleaser, something that has been hard to admit and even harder to surrender.

I find myself so emotionally involved that I take on that anger and it is draining my precious reserves to the point that I cannot determine where their anger ends and I begin.

Because of this intense desire, I have found it difficult to look at certain people in my life and the drain they cause.  If I were to give an honest assessment, I would be forced to admit that I have a lot of incredibly angry people in my life; a number that has drastically risen during the last election.  I find myself so emotionally involved that I take on that anger and it is draining my precious reserves to the point that I cannot determine where their anger ends and I begin.  Not a healthy situation in which to be.

Much of the reason I hang on to these relationships is out of guilt.  There must be something that I have done to bring about such anger and aggression.  Am I not physically present enough?  Have I said or done something to trigger the anger? Am I not doing everything these people desire and falling short of meeting their needs?  These questions keep me up at night and have kept me pressing on through some horrific altercations as I have tried to make peace, come to terms with how my own shortcomings have triggered their displeasure, and accepted that my health problems have been a roadblock to meeting their needs and expectations of me.  Behaving this way has been a physical drain on my energy reserves for over 20 years, and, after the cancer diagnosis, I have been forced to look long and hard at my real role in their perpetual anger to determine if I am really, truly the root cause.

Being a Christian has played a significant role in why I have chosen to absorb the anger of others and take it on myself.  After all, did Christ not say that we are to love? Did he not say that we are to turn the other cheek and offer our shirt as well as our cloak? Then I got to thinking, did Christ justify abuse? Did he want his people to stand by and absorb the anger of others and accept blame, even when there was none to be had? That could not possibly be the case; I cannot imagine Christ, who said peace be with you, wants his people to be living with the discord sown by anger.  This idea drove me to consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (NIV 1 Co 13.4-7).

Look at what Paul is saying, love does not seek to gratify self, it seeks to gratify others. It does not envy, boast, or keep record of wrongs.  It is not easily angered nor does it rejoice in evil.  Love does not seek to harm another, instead it seeks to protect, trust, hope, and persevere.  These are not negatives and cannot arise out of anger.  These are traits that can only abide in a heart that is at peace. The heart that lives at peace and understands love will produce the following:

love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control ( NIV Ga 5.22-23).

To the contrary, the heart that is set on the flesh and the things of this world will produce the following:

sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (NIV Ga 5.19-20).

These traits run contrary to Paul’s definition of love, and have no place in the life of a believer, and I cannot imagine for a moment that when Christ said to love our enemies that he meant that we were to take on their baggage as our own and carry these negative emotions.  It becomes impossible to serve God when carrying around guilt for someone else’s hatred and anger, or to be continually beaten down by their jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, and their desire to create dissensions wherever they may be.  The follower of Christ cannot absorb these negative emotions and still find the reserves to produce love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. This would be impossible for someone who is healthy, and even more so for someone battling a chronic illness because reserves are already at a premium and exhaustion breeds surrender.

Drawing from this revelation, I have worked to slowly weed these angry people from my life, but I cannot help but feel incredibly guilty and selfish for doing so.  Is this really what Christ would want from me? This question has plagued me for months, and has driven me to my knees in tears, seeking answers and some type of affirmation from God that I was doing the right thing, that I had interpreted Scripture accurately, and what I was doing was really what God has willed for my life.  Desperately seeking God’s word on the subject, I came across these verses:

  • “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (NIV Jas 1.19-20).

  • “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” (NIV Pr 29.11)

  • “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger rests in the lap of fools” (NIV Ecc 7.9).

  • “A hot tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (NIV Pr 15.18).

  • “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (NIV Col 3.8)

  • “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (NIV Pr  29.22)

God is not honored by anger and the dissensions that it creates.  He is a God of unity and as such calls his people into that unity he expresses through his relationship within the trinity.  We are called to be of the same mind, love, being in full accord and one mind (NIV Php 2.2).  This call becomes impossible when one is engaged in anger and the discord it sows.  However, I think that I am finally able to come to terms with slowly removing angry people from my life based on the words of these two simple verses:

  • “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered” (NIV Pr 22.24)

  • “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace” (NIV Ecc 3.8).

There are times in our lives when anger is necessary, but it should not be the dominate emotion.  God calls us to seasons where hatred may be necessary and where war may be a very real danger.  Then he calls us to the opposing, where there is a time when we need to love and a time when we need to broker peace.  I am finding that in trying to love a difficult, angry person, I need to broker peace by closing off the relationship.  These people in my life are not ready to surrender their anger, rage, malice, and slander; in fact, in many instances, this is food to them; a means of survival and even joy.  I have to admit that I have found freedom in the knowledge that this is their problem, not mine, and I do not have to carry this burden as if it were my own.  By surrendering and backing off I have been set free to expend my precious energy on more positive ventures.

In closing, Oscar Wilde writes that “to be good is to be in harmony with oneself. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others”, a statement that I am finding more and more to be true.  This is especially true when being in harmony with others requires one to take on the negative emotions of anger, hatred, discontent, dissensions, and slander. These emotions require one to be at odds with not only with people but also with the self. God has called us to be in unity with him and the body of Christ; to fully accomplish this requires to be in unity with the self.

To find the harmony that Wilde talks about and in which the Scriptures point is to release anger and embrace love, bringing the self into unity with Christ.

Sometimes tough decisions need to be made about the company that we keep, decisions I am finding that have become all that more crucial in light of chronic illness and limited energy.  I no longer have the energy to fight these battles, to absorb these negative emotions, and to process the fallout that these relationships ultimately cause.  It has been an extremely difficult thing in which to follow through; some of these relationships were very dear to me and extend back years; however, it has been necessary in order to live well within the present and to manage my diseases.  To find the harmony that Wilde talks about and in which the Scriptures point is to release anger and embrace love, bringing the self into unity with Christ. When the self is in unity, then all that precious energy can be expended on those who will feel its blessing.

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