Befriending Anger, Grief, and Fear
When I was growing up, Anger became my friend. Anger and I would secretly hang out together. Anger showed me how to take out my frustration by punching walls and punishing my body. Anger protected me from being hurt by my dad by building up a wall of hate. Anger introduced me to rage which soothed the raw wounds in my soul, even if it couldn't fully acknowledge the pain or bring any kind of permanent healing. Anger didn't judge me for being pissed off at the world. Anger gave me more fodder. Anger validated me and always took my side. In Anger's eyes, I was always right, "they" were always wrong. I loved Anger for that, but I was also ashamed to be seen with Anger.
Anger wasn't welcome at home or church because Anger was perceived as dangerous, too volatile to be trusted. I loved Anger and I hated Anger. Anger brought out the best and worst in me. We were close for awhile, but I feared Anger would turn me into my dad and I couldn't risk that. I began to see Anger as my enemy, not my friend.
I cut Anger off. Anger wasn't becoming for the Christian leader I wanted to be. Every once in awhile, Anger would come by wanting to engage, always trying to pull me into something. Each time I shut it down and pushed Anger away. I didn't need Anger anymore. When I got married, I made sure Anger stayed out of my marriage. My wife had heard about my past with Anger and wanted to meet this old friend, but I didn't think that would be a good idea so I ignored Anger altogether.
Then Anger stopped coming around. I was glad. My life was easier without having to deal with Anger. I was finally the man I wanted to be. People liked me a lot better without Anger around. I was admired for my calm, steady leadership and rewarded for being able to control my emotions so well. I judged other people who let Anger into their lives. They felt unsafe, unstable, ungodly. Keeping Anger out of my life made me feel more spiritual and self-righteous. I was proud I didn't need Anger anymore.
But then life started getting hard and many things were happening that made me sad. Death. Failure. Disappointment. Hurt. I didn't want to think about them. I didn't want to face the pain. Then Anger showed up with Grief and Fear. They all wanted to talk to me. They didn't like how I had been neglecting them. I didn't realize when I exiled Anger, that I had exiled Grief and Fear as well. But I didn't want to let Anger in, so I sent them all away.
It was too painful to look at them. I didn't want them in my life. I was becoming too important to bother with petty things like feelings. People were listening to me, learning from me, and lifting me up as a model leader. And that's when they ambushed me. Anger, Grief, and Fear came at me all at once. I could fight them off one at a time, but I couldn't push them all away at once. They were jeopardizing everything I had built. I couldn't let people see that I was close with Anger, Grief, and Fear.
So I ran. I couldn't face the pain that they were bringing upon me. I thought if I could escape them, even temporarily, I could be at peace. But I was deceived. By running, I had isolated myself and lost my way. I saw everything I had invested my time in fall apart around me. My actions had hurt myself and people I loved. Anger, Grief, and Fear came looking for me again, but I was hiding. I felt ashamed, unworthy, and unlovable. But this time, I was too broken to fight them off. I felt despair as they surrounded me. My life was over.
But then something strange happened. They sat down beside me. Anger and Fear put their hands on my shoulders while Grief sat in front of me, clasping my hands in theirs. I looked Grief in the face and saw a sadness that mirrored my own. Then Grief, Fear, and Anger all began to weep deep sobs and sorrows. They were each sad for me for different reasons. Grief was sad about the tragic deaths of people I had known and loved. Fear was sad about rejections and failures I had been through. And Anger was sad about wounds and hurts I had experienced in the past and present.
I felt seen and known. I was grateful to not be alone in my pain. In that moment, I realized that they knew me better than anyone else and they were not here to hurt me, but to help me heal. They told me they would always be there for me if I needed them. I could learn to trust them, not because they would always be perfect or positive, but because they would always be real with me. They told me that even when they might act unpredictably, they always had my best interest in mind. I told them I was sorry that I had ignored them for so long. I no longer wanted to shut them out of my life. I wanted to trust them and learn to open myself up to all of them.
This wouldn't mean life would be easier, in some ways, having Anger, Grief, and Fear in my life would make things harder, but I knew they made me a more honest, loving, and whole person. With tears streaming down my face, I gave them a heartfelt hug. I felt a deep love for each of them. I also felt loved by them. Grief, Anger, and Fear were not my enemies all along, they were my most faithful companions.