Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Secondhand Anger


26 “When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin.[a] Don’t let the sun set with anger in your heart or 27 give the devil room to work.” Ephesians 4: 26-27 the Voice

We have all heard the term, “secondhand smoke” (SHS) which is classified as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Have you ever heard anyone talk about secondhand anger which in my opinion may be almost as lethal?

Secondhand anger often occurs in marriage when one’s partner displays anger with some regularity even though it might not seem warranted.  It is secondhand because if the truth were known (or recognized) the anger being expressed is not, in all honesty, rooted in current circumstances but is a response to hurts suffered when the individual was much younger.

Often this condition is referred to as the “baggage” we tend to bring with us into our marriage.  The woundedness and previous hurts can come from any number of sources.  What we, who bring such baggage into our marriage, fail to realize is that in some ways we are looking to our partner to make us “feel all better”, much like a child who has just fallen down and skinned his knee.

We want the affirmation that we didn’t receive growing up, or maybe it is the affection that was missing, or the unconditional love, perhaps there was little encouragement, and no support.  The list of our unfulfilled emotional needs is endless.  Then one day we meet Mr. or Ms. Right, get married and assume that this person will fill the void that was left from our childhood.  First of all that person is incapable of filling that void and secondly there is a chance they bring their own version of emptiness to the relationship that wasn’t revealed when you were dating.

Why is secondhand anger so dangerous?  Because it reflects a lack of forgiveness.  The hurts become a root of bitterness, a root that will grow up inside and ultimately manifest itself in some emotional disorder and/or physical disease, and will likely wreak havoc in your marriage.

Anger is often caused by fear, a need to control and/or an irrational perception of reality.  For example take a woman whose father walked out on her and her mother.  She remembers feeling abandoned.  She now finds herself in a marriage that is not going well and fears that she will be abandoned again.  Perhaps a man was made to feel inferior by his father and only received affirmation when he performed academically or in sports.  He is now experiencing criticism from his wife and it brings back all the feelings of inadequacy that he experienced growing up. 

Only the love of Christ can fill such voids.  Leave your anger at the foot of the cross.

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