You don't have to stay angry

"Here's to second chances and new beginnings!" he said, raising his cup in a mock toast. Suddenly, his demeanor soured and he added, "I just wish I wasn't so angry about what happened in the past."

What I heard my friend say is not all that uncommon. All of us, at one time or another, struggle with feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness. Even when we find ourselves in a good place, the pain from our past can still hold us hostage to the point that we struggle to move forward.

Let me go ahead and tell you this: You don't have to stay angry. Or bitter. Or be filled with constant resentment. A good friend of mine once told me that "the past is prologue." This means that your past, while instrumental in determining how you move forward, does not have to define who you are now.

Easier said than done, I know. The truth is that fighting lingering feelings of anger or bitterness takes a lot of hard work. Think about it - it's easy staying mad. You can be as grouchy and upset as you want to, feeding that beast for as long as you choose. However, choosing to no longer be angry means that forgiveness and grace come along with it which, while both are amazingly beautiful concepts, can be pretty costly on the ego.

So here's the deal - if you want to move past your past feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness, then it's going to take a concentrated effort on your part, but you can do it. How do I know? Because Jesus has shown us the way of love, grace, and forgiveness by offering Himself in our place on the cross. We can forgive and move on because Jesus has freely forgiven us.

Knowing that is a game changer in and of itself. But here are few more morsels of truth for you to gnaw on if you find yourself wanting to make a u-turn on the road to anger and bitterness

If you don't control your anger, it will control you. Nietzsche once wrote "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Unless, of course, it does kill you. And that is exactly what anger and bitterness and resentment can do. Once they have a grip on your heart, they are in control. The good news is that you have the ability and the right to choose to whom your heart belongs, which means that you are fully in control of how you allow anger to affect you. When was the last time that bitterness ever did anything good for you? I didn't think so. Since you know that nothing good comes from staying angry or resentful, then choose to not let these emotions have dominion over you. 

Looking ahead keeps you from always looking behind. Have you ever been so concerned with who or what is behind you that you have no idea what lies ahead? Anger and bitterness can cause you to look back - in regret, fear, resentment, with a mindset of revenge, etc. - so much so that you have no idea of what's in front of you. That friend of mind that I mentioned at the beginning of this post was in this boat. Once he realized that what God had in front of him was so much better than the pains that lay in ruins behind him, it was easy for him to start heading in a forward direction. Again, this is your choice. You can live in the past or you can live for your future.

God is good. Let Him have His way in healing and nurturing your soul beyond your past hurts. There is not one heartache, failure, frustration, or regret of which God does not have intimate knowledge. He knows you inside and out and His love for you burns hot 24/7. Even though we experience times of pain and grief in our lives, God never leaves us for even a moment.

Anger is bed mates with bitterness and resentment. But anger unchecked can completely derail so many aspects of your life. Let the shackles of anger go. Let God heal you. And freely look ahead to all that awaits you in the future.

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