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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Effects of Anger

Stephen Hower, in his book Contrary to Popular Belief tells of the tragic death of Adeana Dickison. While she and her husband were on their honeymoon, she was caught in glacial silt on the Alaskan coastline. The efforts of an experienced rescue team to free her were unsuccessful, and she drowned when the tides came in. The estimated 500 pounds of suction supplied by the silt that had locked around her leg could not be dislodged. Hower goes on to compare the powerful sucking action of the glacial silt to sin. He states: “Like glacial silt, certain sins are listed in the Bible as especially deadly. Like quicksand, these sins hold their victims in an unrelenting grasp, slowly pulling them under.”

One of these deadly sins is hatred. It often begins as anger over a situation. It may start as anger over being jilted by a lover, being abused as a child, having an unwanted divorce, being a victim of injustice, losing a job, etc. But as the anger festers it builds up over time into either bitterness or hatred or both and it eventually consumes us. Hower, speaking of hatred, concludes “Its strong grasp holds great power to destroy the faith of its victims. Friends and family often stand hopelessly near, unable to pry the victims from hatred’s grasp. Horrified, they watch while their loved ones self destruct.”

I remember one woman in her late sixties who attended the church where I was once a member. She had no friends. She always dressed in black and always had a dour expression on her face. All attempts to befriend her failed, for she immediately cut them off. Any compliment given her was reacted to negatively. She was extremely bitter about life. She was constantly miserable. It was uncomfortable even being around her. Eventually most everyone stopped trying to reach out to her. A few years later I found out that she had been jilted at the altar on her wedding day. She never forgave her fiancé for backing out of the wedding. She was mired in her anger, bitterness, and hatred which had continued to fester for forty some years. They destroyed her so that she became the bitter, miserable person whom everyone tried to avoid. Hatred had so consumed her soul that she had no room for anything else. Her inability to forgive destroyed her.

We often hear slogans like “don’t get angry, get even” and “give as good as you get.” But these slogans link the solution to injustice with obtaining revenge. Revenge really is a form of hatred. Many of the animosities we see between people groups around the world are based on revenge. The hatred upon which it feeds leads to an escalation of evil. This often results in death and destruction.

The Christian answer to the problem of hatred is forgiveness. We are counseled to forgive our enemies and those who persecute us. It is only by forgiving that we are able to escape the clutching tendencies of anger. It is only through forgiveness and love that we can escape the powerful force of hatred. True forgiveness allows us to avoid lashing out at others in anger. It keeps us from destroying our own souls.

Life happens. We all have experiences where the natural tendency is to seek revenge. In each of these situations we are presented with a choice. We can hate or we can forgive. The choice we make will have a profound effect upon the rest of our lives. Choosing hatred will lead to self destruction. Choosing love and forgiveness will break the bonds of hatred and give us freedom. From time to time it is worth asking ourselves, “Is there anyone whom I am angry with that I need to forgive?”

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