Almost every bit of fear and anger you and I feel is completely unnecessary—but that doesn’t mean it’s useless.
We’ve talked at length about how fear and anger are really only meant to happen when our lives are in genuine and immediate danger. In the case of anger, you could maybe make an exception for “righteous anger” in the face of injustice or unkindness. But even this, I believe, is meant to be short-lived. But that’s not the experience most of us have, is it? Instead, we find ourselves getting worked up even over small things. Take road rage, for one example. We all know that getting angry at traffic won’t make it flow faster and that it’s not the fault of any one person on the road. So why does this kind of anger still happen?
It happens because we have an expectation of how things will—or should—happen, and when they don’t happen that way we feel that something is wrong. Now, if we took a moment to examine this, we would quickly see that nothing much really is wrong, and there was never a promise that things should be different.
Last week, we talked about the difference between what I call “love A and Love B.” That is, love based on circumstances and results, and love freely given and founded on a right relationship with God. Well, fear and anger are probably the most useful diagnostic tools I know for telling which one you’re living under right now. Ask yourself whether there’s anything in your life that causes you chronic anger or fear. If so, you can be almost sure that at least a part of your life is out of balance, living on circumstances instead of God.
That probably needs a little more unpacking, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to point out that road rage is a bit silly, but life is full of more complicated issues that aren’t so easy to dismiss, especially where our closest relationships are concerned. The important thing to remember is that “love B” is unconditional love, and living this way is predicated on surrendering the end results. In my experience, you can’t really have either of those things without the other for very long.
In other words, demand your own way and you’ll never really have a guarantee of the outcome. Instead, you’ll ride on feelings—up one minute and down the next, and rarely within your own control. A lot of people think that unconditional love is impractical, that if you were really to live that way then people would constantly take advantage of you. Maybe they’ve been deeply hurt by someone, and the thought of continuing to love them unconditionally seems to sacrifice their own wellbeing.
But there’s a place for wisdom in all this too. The kind of unconditional love I’m talking about is basically the same as how we should love ourselves—unconditionally accepting that person as a fellow human being, deserving of love and respect. But that doesn’t mean indulging or even excusing everything they do. If you’re in an abusive relationship, for example, staying with that person and hoping they get better is not the loving thing to do, because you’re only hurting yourself and feeding their vice. Obviously, it’s hurting you to be abused, but it’s also hurting them to abuse you, even if they may not realize it. Unconditional love means never passing judgment on the person. It does not mean disregarding their actions.
So to come full circle back to anger, it’s basically a sign that some expectation we had for our circumstances isn’t being met. In the last few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about life’s great struggle of our fear of death against our belief in relationships. Notice, one of those things is positive and one negative. As the most important positive part of our life, it’s natural to form certain expectations for our relationships as we attempt to control them—and giving up that control is, therefore, a frightening thing to do.
But the fact is that the sort of control you’re giving up is something you never really had anyway. No one can control how another person reacts to them and trying too hard to do so is usually a good way to create the opposite reaction that you wanted. Living “righteously,” that is, in right relationship with God requires us to accept something that our survival programming has taught us to avoid: dependance. But ironically, it’s the only way to find love, joy, peace, and fulfillment which is not dependent on your circumstances, and therefore, temporary.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!