Anger is an emotion that we all experience—but it can be an especially dangerous one to the condition of our hearts if we don’t handle it correctly. When we’re angry, we often cling to the belief that something has been taken from us, and that whoever we’re angry with “owes us” because of it.
But the truth about anger is that the debt we think we’re owed usually can’t be repaid—no matter how badly we think we deserve it. And the pain and hurt that we carry around with us when we hold onto that debt hardens our hearts in the process.
So if the anger we feel can’t be repaid, where do we go from here?
The remedy for anger isn’t payback—it’s forgiveness. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a parable on forgiveness around the concept of a debt that has yet to be repaid. If we’re looking at anger as “someone owes me,” we have to look at forgiveness as “cancelling debt.” In other words, when you choose to forgive someone, you’re choosing to cancel and let go of whatever you believe is owed to you in order to let go of your anger and move on.
It sounds easy, but anyone who has ever felt anger around an unfair situation knows that choosing forgiveness takes strength and humility—and it doesn’t come naturally. But there are 4 steps we can take to effectively cancel debt, choose forgiveness, and find freedom when we’re facing anger.
1. Identify Who You’re Angry With
Freedom from anger doesn’t just mean moving on from the past. We’re never going to move on if we don’t take the time to identify who we’re angry with and the space they’re taking up in our hearts. Start by making a list of the people in your life who you’re holding onto that anger towards.
2. Determine What They Owe You
Sometimes the anger we’re feeling is so strong that it can overshadow the real reason why we’re feeling it. Take time to figure out why you’re angry with the people on your list and what you believe they owe you that is causing that anger. What would they need to give to you for that debt to really be paid back?
3. Cancel the Debt
This is the tough part—make a conscious decision to cancel the debt of whatever you believe is owed to you. No if/then statements or contractual agreements...just cancel the debt in your own heart and mind and do whatever you need to do to really let go of what is owed to you.
4. Dismiss the Case
This last step is a daily decision to keep the cases of debt closed—no matter what comes up in conversation or how you’re feeling after a certain encounter or situation. Our feelings won’t always follow our decision to forgive, but it’s important to keep the case closed, keep choosing forgiveness, and really allow yourself to move on.
Finding freedom from anger and choosing to cancel our debts won’t lead to an immediately changed heart. It takes time and practice to keep fighting for the freedom that comes with real forgiveness, especially when we’re plagued with human emotions and an enemy who is constantly trying to pull us back into anger. But we don’t need to be held captive by those who have hurt us in the past, because the power of forgiveness that Jesus provides is so much greater than the power of anger.
*If you or someone you know has experienced an abusive situation that has led to anger, know that your anger should not be dismissed or invalidated. First and foremost, remove yourself from the situation or talk to someone who can help you remove yourself if you have not already. Secondly, consider counseling or talking to your LCBC location staff about processing your emotions. You can contact us directly to start a conversation any time.
Hear more about freedom from anger, forgiveness, and cancelling debt in our message Freedom from Anger from our sermon series Enemies of the Heart.