Taking offense without giving in to anger

Image from Free Press Journal

“Love can certainly hurt, but should never push us into destructive anger. Love seeks understanding, the salve to anger.”

I wrote that back in 2018 while working to disentangle myself from an abusive relationship. The idea of showing love through times of discord in a relationship has been on my mind lately.

When someone you love says or does something offensive or hurtful, of course there is going to be the temptation to give in to anger. However, when there has been a trespass of healthy boundaries in any relationship – anger is not the only option.

In Matthew 6:33, the apostle writes “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added onto you.” The entire chapter is about how Christians can show themselves to be followers of Christ in their daily lives. The instruction listed in verse 33 is so important that it has been enshrined in a popular hymn that very well have started playing in your head the moment you read the words. If we are to follow Matthew’s advice, then acting out of anger must never be our first option.

This brings to mind the words of another spiritual leader whose words have been popularized by author Stephen Covey as one of his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It doesn’t take much digging to discover that Covey borrowed one of his seven habits from thirteenth century monk St. Francis of Assisi. In The Prayer of St. Francis, the faithful recite – “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek… to be understood as to understand.”

To seek to understand another’s pain as they hurl insults at you is a feat of character strength, to be sure. It is a feat that is only made possible by the grace of love for the person in pain. People in pain sometimes seek to inflict their pain on others in a misguided attempt to elicit empathy. Even otherwise emotionally intelligent people can fall prey to this fallacy of emotional logic. That is to say – it happens to the best of us.

When I have been in such pain, my truest friends have given me this form of grace and love. That sort of love is transformative and it has made all the difference in my life. I hope that when I am called to do so, I also extend such grace and compassion towards those I love.

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