Jesus said, “Forgive seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). We take it as a moral imperative.
But it isn’t just Jesus who tells us how important forgiveness is; science confirms it as well. In fact, not to forgive is putting a slow death sentence on ourselves,as the theologian Frederick Buechner so aptly describes.
Most of us deal with the sins and transgressions of others in the moment. We get mad, pull away, and then make up and go on. When we are the transgressors, we do the same. With minor goofs and slip-ups, we feel bad in the moment, apologize, and then continue with life.
In London’s underground stations you hear a mechanized voice say, “Mind the Gap,” as you prepare to board a tube train.
That “gap” between platform and train is usually quite small and as a tourist, after the novelty wears off, you take for granted the need to watch your step and the recording simply becomes one of those endearing facets of the London experience.
Neil Gaiman, in his book, Neverwhere, artfully creates a more sinister reason for “minding the gap” in his fantasy story about London above ground and the London below.
Years ago, I worked for a company contracted to help injured workers in chronic pain recover and re-enter the workplace. Most had been injured on the job, even with all the safety precautions.
As part of their rehabilitation and recovery program, they attended a two-week all-day class. Most were not happy to be there; in fact, some were downright hostile. Yet after one week, we began to see a transformation of attitudes, mindset, and way of thinking.
It was always amazing to watch this metamorphous from hopelessness, despondency, and despair to one of possibility, expectation, and motivation.
As I begin this Threads of Life series, I would like to give some background on why FOCUS is so important and why it is the name I chose for my company, my motto, and my website.
When my husband and I took early retirement from teaching in Oregon, we moved to northern Washington to build our dream home and spend time sailing in the San Juan Islands.
My husband joined a group of talented musicians who played in a local rehearsal band and I returned to teaching part time at Chapman University Extension Center. However, long evening class hours prompted me to leave the formal classroom for good and start giving workshops and classes in ADHD parenting, pain management, stress management and communication.
Everything was going so nicely, and then life stepped in. There’s not enough money to pay the bills, the credit card debts are piling up, in-laws intrude with too many visits or too much advice, to keep my job I have to work longer hours and accomplish more.
Suddenly we find ourselves arguing more – tempers flare, anger rises beyond the norm, and the blame game begins. We go outside our marriage to talk about our spouses and get consolation, validation, sympathy, and support.
And the scene is set for more serious troubles.
In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman lays out in a practical format the seven principles for making marriage work, based on years of research and study in his Seattle based clinic, The Gottman Institute.
Like summer wildfires, the results of anger unleashed and unchecked by logic or reason can leave behind destroyed relationships and ruined lives. Left unrestrained, our lives can become tinder boxes ready to explode with just a spark of irritation.
Anger, like fear, is a great stressor when it becomes the norm for dealing with life’s problems.
As therapists, we see the effects of growing up in homes where anger is out of control. The wounds and scars run deep. Unless recognized, addressed, and changed, the patterns of behavior repeat themselves from one generation to another.
It’s okay to be angry. It is not okay to be aggressive.
You may have been led to believe that anger is never good and when you get angry you should quickly censure it. As I described in my earlier posts, anger has a purpose and we need to pay attention to what it is telling us.
Aggressive behavior often accompanies anger out of control, but anger and aggressive behavior are not necessarily synonymous. You can feel angry without being aggressive.
When we feel we have little control over our life and anger becomes our predominant way of resolving conflict or problems, it can lead to aggressive behavior.
Whether you are a man or a woman, understanding your feelings of anger and what triggers it is important. The inability to understand its origins can result in hostility, silent rage, or passive-aggressive behavior. Understanding and becoming accountable for our emotions allows us to assert ourselves responsibly.
Anger, like all emotions, has a purpose. It is neither bad nor good on its own. When managed and expressed appropriately, it can be an important ally and friend.
The energy that anger creates can help us make important changes. When used as a motivational force it gives us the motivation to change our lives for the better.
Left unchecked, however, it simmers beneath the surface, ready to explode at any moment. Anger then focuses on everything that is and has been going wrong in our lives. It keeps us from seeing anything good.
It is to our benefit to find out how we acquired an angry-aggressive habitual response before it becomes a wildfire that burns everything in its path.
Someone has wronged us or betrayed us. Anger rises. It simmers in our thoughts as we contemplate our revenge: “Just wait; I’ll get even with you.”
And we repeat to ourselves over and over the injustice of the situation, of how we were treated and why we didn’t deserve it.
What felt like a kick in the stomach the first time is repeatedly replayed as we continue to stoke the flames of anger, hurt, and betrayal until we have a raging furnace inside of us – our stomach churning into hard knots, chilling our bones.
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Ten Steps to Move from Recovery to Rebuilding
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