I was driving down a two lane highway in rural Alberta, waiting for my opportunity to pass a pickup truck towing a trailer.
As I started passing, I looked in my rear view mirror, and to my horror, I saw a different pickup truck bearing down on me fast, nearly smashing into my rear bumper. I had a sudden shortness of breath. I knew instantly that this guy was pissed off at me. I proceeded to pass the truck and trailer but decided I would slow down after passing, just in case Mr. Pickup would try to exact revenge.
Thank God I listened to that voice within. After returning to my lane he overtook both vehicles and swerved across in front of me. He then proceeded to pound his brakes sporadically and I had to brake hard to avoid smacking into his tailgate. As our bumper neared his multiple times, I was livid.
I had unknowingly cut him off. Now he was intentionally putting my family in danger. With two kids in the back, I played the role of caution and kept pounding the brakes until he was satisfied with his retaliation and sped off.
In so many ways I wanted to chase him down and beat the disrespect out of him. The anger and adrenaline that built up in my body was intense and it took several hours for it to subside. I couldn’t let it go. I can still feel the anger when I think about it.
What motivated my anger? I hated being misunderstood. He assumed my actions as deliberate and then responded with retaliation. I didn’t think I deserved what he paid back. He threatened what I value most, my family. I get angry at anyone who threatens the loss of what I hold dear.
It wasn’t necessarily wrong for me to react in anger. It was an automatic emotional response that allowed me to be fully engaged and aware of danger. It just wasn’t a good place for me to stay. So how did I let go of anger and forgive? Another personal experience symbolizes what has helped me deal with my anger.
When the “Passion of the Christ” (film by Mel Gibson) came out, I went to watch it in an old theatre in my neighborhood. The anguish of watching Jesus endure such hate and torture by the Roman soldiers made my stomach turn. I had to turn my eyes away a couple of times because of the gore.
After the movie the guy ahead of me got up and unknowingly shoved his slider seat back, hitting my shin hard. In the midst of the pain, I was angry and about to let him have it. In reality, he probably didn’t even know he did it. Thankfully, the spirit of the movie took over my conscience. How could I begrudge a bruised shin after just seeing the torture and hate Jesus endured and forgave? I held my tongue. It was easy in this state for my heart to forgive this minor offense in light of the greater offenses Jesus forgave. I also have to remember that Jesus has forgiven me for all my evil so how can I hold the evil of others against them?
I am also reminded that God and others have been angry at me and I have needed them to forgive me. To hold a grudge only shows my arrogance. Am I better than others, as though I have no need of forgiveness as well?
What do you tend to get angry about?
What helps you to forgive? Who do you need to forgive?
Do you think you are successful in forgiving people? Why or why not?