Do you struggle with anger issues? If so, this article will provide several Bible verses about anger to help you overcome.
But first, what words come to mind when you think of the word “anger”? Maybe things like:
Anger is one of the most difficult emotions to feel and manage. It can grip you and make you feel like you have lost all control. Often it leads to other emotions, like jealousy, bitterness, greed, selfishness. Anger is like the tip of an iceberg. It is what most people see on the surface, but there is usually more emotion that lies beneath the surface. It can cause a lot of damage when not managed well.
The church has traditionally taught (intentionally or unintentionally) that anger is sin, but this article will help you see actual Bible verses about anger to confirm the Bible’s teaching. Because it is real and difficult to control, the Bible talks about it often.
Humans have struggled with it since the Fall. Consider the story of Cain and Abel. Cain was angry with and jealous of his brother Abel, so much so that he murdered him. There are stories of angry kings, angry people groups, and an angry God (yes, God and Jesus both demonstrated anger in Scripture).
People in Scripture murder, destroy, mistreat others, and question God when angry. Anger is not sin. What you do with it can be. Unfortunately, many times in Scripture you see anger being mishandled in sinful ways.
Today, many people have anger issues, and they are not sure what to do with them. They yell or hit or curse or throw. Though this will not be an exhaustive list of anger management skills, it will point to Bible verses about anger. Here are a Bible verses about anger. Not all will be explained, but some will.
Bible Verses about Anger
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. – James 1:19-21
The worst anger reactions come from impulsive, quick decisions made in anger. It does not say here to not ever become angry. It says to be “slow to anger.” If you respond quickly in anger, you probably are not living in the way God wants you to live. Consider your anger reactions.
Do you speak more than listen? Do you react in defensiveness? Are you able to slow down, take a breath, and listen? Listen to what the Holy Spirit says to you, or listen to what another is saying. When you have listened, and when you have taken enough time to carefully consider your response, then respond.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:26-32
In this passage, sinful anger is described as when you go to sleep angry, when foul language comes out of anger, when your anger reactions grieve the Holy Spirit because it comes out in harmful ways, when it lingers long enough to become bitterness, unforgiveness, wrath, harmful words, and yelling. This is when anger is sin.
God wants you to show kindness and compassion, to speak words that lift up instead of tear down, to forgive instead of hold bitterness. These are the opposite of problematic and sinful anger reactions. When you are angry, slow down end consider ways to demonstrate compassion and kindness in your reaction.
Colossians 3:8 is a similar passage. Consider your anger. Do you tend to hold bitterness and struggle to forgive? Are you able to show compassion when angry? Is your anger harmful to others? A counselor can help you work through any bitterness and old hurt you may have so that you can have peace from the toxicity of unforgiveness.
Psalm 27:8-9 speaks of refraining from anger because it leads to evil. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that murder begins in the heart as anger. There are many more examples of anger in Scripture, but what is important to understand is how destructive it can be when you let go of the reins. Anger in charge is dangerous.
Some Verses about Anger from the Book of Proverbs
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. – Proverbs 29:11
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. – Proverbs 15:18
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man. – Proverbs 22:24
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. – Proverbs 14:29
Patience is often described as the opposite of anger. James 1 speaks of something similar. It goes back to Ecclesiastes 7:9 about being slow to become angry. To feel anger is a part of being human and made in the image of God. Righteous anger can lead to social injustices being remedied. It can lead to change in beautiful ways.
When anger is impatient and not calm, wise, or thoughtful, it leads to foolish action. That action can be hurtful to self and others. It is imperative to learn calming techniques to help you slow down and think about what you need to do in anger.
Do you struggle with impatience? Are you someone who has to be right or make a point in every conversation? Do you allow another to share his or her point of view? Do you react quickly? Do you know how to stay calm while angry? If you are unsure of how to calm yourself and gain self-control in this way, talk with a counselor. He or she can teach you how.
Sometimes anger feels justified. A person you trusted abused you. A friend betrayed you. A parent abandoned you. People around you are mistreated. A peer bullied you. Your child lied to you. Someone cut you off in traffic. Your addict sister stole all the money out of your account. You were made to grow up much faster than you should have been.
Anger is simply a feeling, but it can be destructive like a volcano. It is always appropriate for you to read and meditate on these passages of Scripture. Consider truth and spend time there. Let God show you how to have self-control, to be patient and kind and compassionate and forgiving.
Jesus had every right to be angry with mankind, just as you may have. They brutally beat him and killed him on a cross. They betrayed him. They rejected him. They left him to die. They spit on him and mocked him and made his house a house of robbers.
There were moments when he was angry and showed that, but you know how he usually responded? In compassion and grace. He spoke the truth in assertive ways that were meant to build up the audience, but he still did so in love. If you need an example, study his life.
Christian Counseling for Anger Issues
Anger does not have to get the final say in your life. It does not have to win anymore. Decide today to take your anger back. Decide to submit to the words of Scripture instead. Find methods that help you to calm down enough to think about each decision so that your anger no longer is hurtful. For additional help with anger management, visit our counselor directory today to schedule a counseling appointment.
“Sulky”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Angry”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Danger”, Courtesy of Chris Rhoads, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Angry Adult”, Courtesy of Pixabay.com, CC0 License
Love. There is probably no other topic that has been spoken about more through articles, books, novels, sonnets, songs, and visual art. With a plethora of definitions and interpretations, it’s hard to know what to make of love and marriage.
Helpful Bible Verses about Love and Marriage
Christians are not lost at sea on this subject, although the Bible does give guidelines and direction about what love is, and it shares some thoughts on that age-old, yet still relevant institution called marriage.
What is love?
The question, “What is love?” would probably top the list of FAQs of all time. The Bible turns this question on its head in several ways. One way it subverts our expectations is to instead ask “Who is love?”. The answer we get is that God is the very definition and source of all love. “God is love”, says one of Jesus’ followers repeatedly in a letter to other Christians.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” he says in 1 John 4:8. If you want to know what love is, you need to look at God; then you’ll know. God’s nature, actions, thoughts, and impulses are rooted in, emerge from and erupt in spontaneous acts of love, so much so that to see God in action is to see love personified.
Love shows itself in what it does. “It is patient and kind… does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude… irritable or resentful… does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). To show us what love looks like, and to demonstrate this love, God gave us His Son to die for us.
Another of Jesus’ followers, Paul, put it this way – “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
It is this type of love, the sort of love that shows up for the other, even to the point of laying down your life, that husbands are told to exemplify toward their wives. In another of his letters to Christians in Ephesus, Paul writes “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). That’s a pretty high bar.
Marriage is a union
The love between a husband and wife ought to be one of the hallmarks of the marriage relationship. The profound mystery of marriage is that it is a union of two people becoming, somehow, one flesh. In the beginning, before our world was a mess, marriage existed, and it was described in this way: “…a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Marriage brings together two individuals who leave their families and cleave to one another, forming a new union. For clarity, in talking about leaving one’s family, it’s not talking about cutting emotional and physical ties, but the act of setting up your own family unit.
This union, we are told, is a profound mystery because it isn’t just talking about our human relationships. Again, from Paul – “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). Human marriage is somehow an echo of the relationship Jesus has with his people. Jesus is united with his people, died for his people, and in many places in the Bible, the church is referred to as the “bride of Christ.” This is, indeed, a profound mystery.
The marriage bed
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). One facet of being married is spouses having sex with each other. This is a beautiful act of celebrating the marriage union by spouses sharing themselves with their partner.
“Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time”, as one Biblical author wrote (1 Corinthians 7:5). The positive side of this is for spouses to enjoy one another sexually. The flip side of that is to preserve your marriage. Don’t defile the marriage bed by inviting others into it, via adultery or other means.
Forgiveness and kindness
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). If you ask couples that have been married for any length of time, you’ll find that being kind and considerate to one another, and forgiving each other is something to be practiced often, possibly even multiple times a day. We’re not living in the Genesis 1 or 2 moment, when all was right with the world, but in the Genesis 3 moment, sin is a present reality we must contend with every day.
Being considerate and tenderhearted challenges us to look beyond ourselves and to think of the other person’s thoughts and feelings. When two sinful people live side by side all the time, it’s certain that things will go wrong – the wrong thing will be said, done or implied; feelings will be hurt, and expectations disappointed.
There is a need for forgiving each other. It’s also quite challenging that we are to forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us. Consider for a moment how much we offend God with our sin every day. God forgives us, wiping the slate clean and not treating us as our sins deserve. This is remarkable, and quite daunting if we were planning to do this in our own strength.
Rejoicing through the years
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe… be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). Most relationships, like people, go through seasons. There are seasons of hardship, joy, youthful zeal and so much more.
If and when kids come into the picture, that changes the dynamic of your relationship by introducing new stresses and strains into the marriage (with new joys too, of course!). As we grow older, changes inevitably come, especially to our bodies, but also to our priorities. Hot bods become mom bods and dad bods, our interests shift, and we mature into different people.
There is a need to keep drinking from one another’s fountain, to remain intoxicated with one another through the seasons. It won’t always look the same, but at bottom, we’re talking about a consistent and persistent love that grows as you grow. Date night is one powerful tool in your arsenal to help you continue rejoicing in each other.
As we speak about the beautiful symphony of marriage, there is the harsh and somber note of divorce, something many of us are familiar with from our parents, relatives or friends who have gone through it. When the union of marriage goes bad, the all-too-common reality of divorce looms large.
There are many complicated reasons why marriages fail, and why couples contemplate divorce. If marriage is a leaving and cleaving to one another, divorce separates what has been joined together and sunders the union. This is usually very painful, not only for the parties involved but for their children and extended family.
One startling way in which God addresses the reality and pain of divorce is by saying, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. For the man who hates and divorces, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Malachi 2:15-16).
Marriage is a beautiful union of two people coming together to form their own family. It is an echo of the relationship between Jesus and his church, which is itself a profound mystery. This lends gravitas to the institution of marriage; it is not simply a human thing we invented, but a meaningful and significant relationship inscribed in deeper realities.
In marriage, two sinful people join together to do life together. They need to show grace, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness toward one another, and to rejoice in each other as they go through life.
If you and your spouse are going through a rough patch, or if you’re thinking to simply refresh your marriage, consider speaking with a Christian counselor who will guide you in thinking about marriage from the Bible, and developing skills for conflict resolution and communication toward a flourishing relationship.
“In Comfortable Silence,” Courtesy of Vladimir Postovit, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Romance,” Courtesy of Sasint, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Together,” courtesy of William Stitt, Unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Enchanted,” Courtesy of Annette Sousa, Unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License
Grief. It’s not something that we can emotionally prepare ourselves for, regardless of whether we’ve had time to consider that a loved one will leave us through illness or if it’s a sudden death that turns our world upside down.
Grief also doesn’t follow an orderly timeline – friends and family may encourage us to “take the time we need,” implying that after a “reasonable” period we will move on and life will continue.
But the pangs of anguish can sweep in at the most unexpected moment; such that we can also resist the grieving process and block it out because it is just too painful.
Grieving is critical, however, and has even been described as medicine. A season of grief is what God gives to us in order to cleanse our souls from the agony and to set us on the path towards healing and wholeness.
He also gives us comforting Bible verses for death and Bible verses about grief that we can meditate on, knowing that it is the truth contained in his Word and the power of the Holy Spirit that will give us the daily help that we need.
Bible Quotes about Losing a Loved One
Here are some Bible quotes about losing a loved one to reflect on in this difficult time:
In our sadness
These Bible verses about grief and sadness show us that life here this side of heaven will not be easy. In our lives, we will experience heartache, suffering, and struggle, but God’s Word promises us that Christ will be there with us.
He won’t give us more than we can handle with His help, and even our lowest times can be used to glorify God. God loves to draw close to us when we are most vulnerable, tending to us like a loving father and being compassionate and full of mercy.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
Grief can be overpowering. It can make us feel as if we are in a long dark tunnel with no light at the end. But this verse teaches us that even in the midst of soul-crushing grief, God has mercy on us and heals our inner hurt.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4
David knew grief and this is why many Psalms address the topic. Psalm 23 is possibly the best known of all of David’s Psalms. In it, he describes the rest and peace that God provides.
When David was facing death (whether his own or that of someone else is not clear), he found solace both in God’s discipline (God’s “rod”) and guidance (God’s “staff”). In other words, God is taking care of David both through daily guidance, instruction, and wisdom.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. – Romans 8:26
Prayer is the way we communicate with God. But because He is a holy God and we are sinful people, we don’t know how to pray properly. This is even more the case when we are in the midst of grief.
However, Paul informs us that though our prayers may seem ineffective, scattered, or distracted, the Holy Spirit stands between us and God and makes intercession for us. There is a great deal of mystery here which is beyond our ability to understand, but at the very least we have the comfort that our prayers are heard by God no matter how insufficient they may seem to us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you’re seeking strength
As we read and meditate on Bible verses for grief, we see that we do not need to muster up the strength to get through each moment and day; God calls us to hold on tightly to Christ and He will give us the strength and grace to carry on. He is an ever-present help in need, and, even when life circumstances seem unbearable, he can give us peace which transcends understanding.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
This verse has provided comfort to many in their grief. No matter what we are going through, the grace of God is enough for us. We may be weak, but His power is demonstrated in the midst of our weakness as he lends us his strength.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3
When our world seems to be crashing in and trouble and grief are on every side, this verse offers us the comforting knowledge that God will defend us and strengthen us. Even though everything around us might be falling apart, God is the one source of stability in life.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73: 26
Though we may feel ourselves to be at the end of our rope we can count on God to be our strength and our inheritance. This means that no matter how bad things are God will still do good to us and help us to get through the though times.
How we see death as Christians
If the loved one you are grieving was a believer in Christ, it is encouraging to remember that, while the pain of loss is arduous, you will be reunited with them for all eternity when Jesus returns! The following verses about death point to this amazing hope. Reflecting on the reality of heaven is uplifting.
If they did not know the Lord, you can seek refuge in the knowledge of God’s absolute sovereignty and that this life, with its pain, is temporary – we can fix our eyes on what is unseen and rest on the truth of God’s Word.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4
This verse speaks about the world to come. The New Heavens and the New Earth will be free of sadness, tears, and pain because this present world will be renewed. Whatever grief and misery the Christian may experience here in this world will be done away with by the presence of God, Himself.
Additionally, even the source of the grief will be no more because the old world will be forever gone. Though for now, we live in this world, we can be comforted by the thought that this life is not all that there is and that all will be made right in the next.
May the Lord meet you where you are at in your grief, and may you rely on him, through these Bible quotes about losing a loved one, and grow ever deeper in your knowledge and faith of God.
Christian Grief Counseling in San Diego
If you’re looking for a grief counselor in San Diego, we invite you to browse our counselor directory or call our scheduling assistant to make an appointment. It would be our privilege to walk alongside you as you navigate the various stages of grief with the Lord’s help.
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Loss can take many different forms, and you may be suffering from one right now. When losses hit you, you can find lasting comfort in Bible verses about loss. Scripture can lift you up no matter what type of loss you are facing.
Perhaps you have suffered a loss due to the literal death of a loved one or a pet. Maybe your loss is related to a life transition, like divorce, the empty nest, or a cross-country move. Other losses like breakups, getting laid off from your job or a sudden friendship change can hurt, too. In each of these losses, you can find a Bible verse for comfort in a time of loss.
Scripture for Loss: What Does the Bible Say?
When we look up loss in the Bible, we can find all kinds of examples. Job experienced sweeping losses of his children, flocks, and health, all within a swift time span. Sarah and Hannah experienced the painful loss of infertility. David suffered the losses of at least four children and his dearest friend, Jonathan. Jesus felt the painful loss of companionship in his greatest time of need.
The Bible shows us real examples of loss to give us affirmation and comfort. It never sugarcoats our pain. God knows each of our losses and cares about every one of them, no matter how small they may seem to others. He offers us comfort and hope when we study Scripture for loss.
A Time for Loss
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. – Ecclesiastes 3:4
Because we live in an imperfect world, loss is inevitable for each of us. God designates times of loss in his great sovereignty. He saw your loss coming before you did, and he weeps alongside you.
This verse tells us that there is a chosen time for weeping and mourning. We must do this to get past the pain of loss. If we deny it or put it off, we will only suffer longer. God will walk through our time of loss with us. Then, as we get to the other side of the loss, we can laugh and dance with God again.
The Lord Offers Comfort
For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. – Isaiah 49:13
When you are experiencing a loss, you need comfort to get well. It can be tempting to numb ourselves with the wrong things when we need comfort. Food, alcohol, drugs, social media, unwise relationships, and a myriad of other activities may offer temporary relief.
However, this type of comfort never lasts and can even leave us with guilt and additional pain. The Lord himself offers us comfort that is everlasting. Because he is all-powerful and mighty to save, he can comfort you better than anything or anyone else.
As you rest in his presence, you will feel his comfort and compassion. Draw close to him in prayer and meditate on Scripture for loss, and you’ll experience the comfort that you need.
Relax in God’s Comfort
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. – Isaiah 66:13
Babies often will not stop crying until they are resting in their mother’s arms. Then they calm immediately because they feel comforted and secure. Hopefully, you experienced a loving relationship with your parent, relative or guardian when you were a child.
Perhaps you have offered comfort, yourself, as a parent or watched others offering it tenderly. God wants to offer you loving and tender comfort in the way a mother comforts her child. He wants to hold you close and let you cry it out. He wants to offer you the security you seek.
The Lord Strengthens You
You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. – Jeremiah 8:18
Does your heart feel faint with loss? Maybe it’s hard for you to get through a single day, much less a week or month, without feeling overwhelmed with loss. This Scripture for the loss of loved ones can bring you the comfort you seek.
You don’t need to do anything except to receive the comfort of the Lord like a warm blanket wrapped around you. He is holding it out to you now in love. When you find comfort for your loss in God’s presence, you will feel stronger.
The word “comfort” can be broken down into two parts – “with” and “strength.” God wants to be with you in your sorrow to offer you his mighty strength, which will help you get through your loss. He will help you through the days, weeks, months and years ahead with his strength.
The Holy Spirit Gives Comfort
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor – Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you. – John 14:16-17
When we believe in the One True God, the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be our Comforter. He also helps us through our struggles. He intercedes for us in prayer.
The Holy Spirit strengthens us and continually stands beside us. If you believe in God, you already have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside you! He will comfort you with Bible verses for mourning. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to remind you of everything God wants you to know.
He will speak to you through God’s Word, sermons, podcasts, Christian books, counselors and Christian friends. As you ask the Holy Spirit to help you, you will find comfort in many different ways.
God is Faithful
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23
You may only have a glimmer of hope in your heart right now. That is enough for God to use. Cling to that hope like an anchor in a storm. If you hold tight to it, God will prove himself faithful to you.
He will not let you sink or be cast away. God will never leave you nor forsake you in your loss. He is watching over you every minute, growing your faith as you hold onto hope in his promises.
The Value of Courage
Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord. – Psalm 31:24
It takes courage to face our losses and ask God and others for help. In Bible verses on loss, we learn that as we take courage and hope in the Lord, he will strengthen us. It’s similar to weight training. Muscles become stronger only when they are pushed past their limits.
The muscle fibers break down during a workout but become stronger when the fibers grow back together. Courage is like the weight we use in a loss challenge. With each repetition of courage, our faith in God becomes stronger. Choose courage instead of disappointment, and God will strengthen you.
Your Loss Has Purpose
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
You may have heard the phrase, “God never wastes a hurt.” This Bible verse proves the statement to be true. As you begin to heal from your loss with God’s comfort, you will be able to comfort others in the future.
His comfort is designed to fill up your heart and overflow onto others. That’s why it’s important that you take steps to heal now. You can find purpose and strength with God’s help.
Christian Counseling for Loss
You may get stuck after a loss and need help to move forward. Study and meditate upon these Bible verses on loss, but don’t be reluctant to ask for help from a Christian counselor. A counselor is equipped with the right tools to help you handle your loss. Please give us a call at Seattle Christian Counseling to learn more about how counseling can help you.
Kate Motaung, copyright 2019, all rights reserved
Why is forgiving others so hard to do? How can forgiving others benefit the person who is forgiving? Learn more in this article about forgiveness and mental health.
Forgiving Others from the Heart
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32
Forgiving others is very hard to do in this day and age. Nowadays, society emphasizes much the love of self, encouraging people to always stand up for themselves.
While this is good to an extent, as abuse and other forms of injustice should never be tolerated, it has also made it increasingly difficult for people to forgive as they believe that they need to protect their personal honor, even if it is just a minor slight.
Sadly, when one is unable to forgive, the hurt and pain linger in the mind, affecting a person in many different ways. Though contrary to the ways of the world, biblically, forgiveness is something everyone should strive to do, for their own sake and others.
The Effects of Not Forgiving Others from the Heart
Lots of people today continue to hold on to their hurts. Some claim the bitter memories serve as motivation to become better than whoever stepped on them in the past. Others choose not to forget so that they can truly savor their triumph when they defeat their rival. And then there are those who cannot forget and forgive as their past trauma continues to haunt them and stir up hateful thoughts.
Regardless of the reason, harboring such negativity can really take a toll on a person. Mentally, such bitterness just adds to a person’s daily stress, affecting one’s concentration and even memory. It can also lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
This can also be felt physically. The stress of recalling past hurts lowers the body’s immune system, making a person more susceptible to sickness. There may also be daily body pains (e.g. headaches, muscle aches) and difficulty sleeping or eating.
Relationally, the past pain affects a person’s bond with those who have slighted them – be they colleague, friend, or family member – preventing the relationship from growing stronger. Such hurt can also cause additional problems as the bitter memory may hinder a person from widening their social circle or becoming intimate once more (e.g. fear of loving again).
Moreover, this bitterness affects a person spiritually as this hate for our brother or sister-in-Christ is directly against what God wants us to do, which is to forgive. Because of this, the person may choose to avoid spiritual activities, like praying or going to church, believing they are no longer worthy of God’s love.
Misconceptions and Clarifications about Forgiving Others
Many times people do not forgive because of their misunderstandings about forgiveness. These, however, need to be corrected for the person’s sake and for others.
Misconception 1: Forgiveness excuses the offender
One wrong idea is that forgiving means condoning the offender’s actions or behavior. Not only does the offender get a free pass, but it also makes the victim feel powerless about the incident. Since no one wishes to feel that way, the person continues to feed their anger – through negative thoughts and even actions (e.g. backbiting) – which may make them feel more in control of the situation.
Forgiveness, however, never means approving the wrongs done, as everyone should be loved and respected. Instead, forgiveness means NOT allowing the past hurt to have a hold on one’s life. As earlier mentioned, the more such bitterness lingers in the mind, the more the person suffers internally, and even physically. But when a person forgives, the mental and spiritual burden is lifted, allowing them to feel at peace once more. It may also heal a lot of physical ailments.
Misconception 2: Forgiveness means granting legal mercy
For victims of crime or abuse, it can be difficult to forgive as they mistakenly think it means allowing the offender to escape punishment. As there may be a fear of possible retribution or future harm to someone else, forgiveness for many is often out of the question.
For legal matters, forgiveness does NOT mean pardoning someone of the crime. For the public’s safety or for the recovery of resources, legal proceedings should generally continue on (with possible exceptions if it really is a very minor matter). Again, the point of forgiving someone, even one who has caused much pain to a person or their family, is to free up the mind and spirit so that the person can live normally again.
Forgiveness here also means treating the offender with dignity and compassion, even if the crime was grave. If not, then a person may become prejudiced against similar offenders or even suspected offenders in the future.
Misconception 3: Forgiveness means reconciliation, even if you do not want to
Others choose not to forgive because they believe it means they have to reconcile with the other, even if they do not want to. For former sweethearts, this may be a big no-no as they have already found someone else or they have already realized they were not meant to be. For business partners, this may be seen as a useless endeavor as there may be no point of working together again.
Choosing to forgive does NOT mean one has to always get back together again. In situations like exes or business dealings gone sour, it really is not logical to do this. As in the first two misconceptions, forgiveness here is to stem the spread of internal negativity, lest a person continue to hold back in future relationships with others. Forgiveness also means still respecting the rights of the one who hurt them to prevent other untoward incidences from occurring (e.g. defaming the offender or other acts of revenge).
It should be noted, however, that in family matters, particularly when the issue is between spouses or children, reconciliation should generally be the goal for the family to properly function once more.
Misconception 4: Forgiveness means forgetting what happened
Another misconception is that forgiveness means erasing one’s mind of the incident. However, with our God-given minds, it can be very difficult to simply forget. And if the experience was particularly painful, most really do not want to forget to prevent similar future mistakes.
Forgiveness NEVER means forgetting the painful lessons of the past. If this were to happen, then definitely history would repeat itself. People are meant to remember past experiences to prevent the bad ones from occurring again. Choosing to forgive the bad that has happened allows the person to appreciate the present and positively move forward, rather than always wallowing in the past.
The Phases of Forgiveness Therapy
Despite the very clear benefits of forgiveness, it can really be difficult to forgive. A person’s natural instinct is to protect themselves which makes it hard to let go of the negative emotions. Fortunately, there is a four-step method to work towards forgiveness.
The Uncovering Phase
In the uncovering phase, the one offended objectively views the transgression to see how it has affected their life. Has it disrupted many key areas in their life? Have they changed for the worse because of it?
By doing this, the person may begin to understand the results of an unforgiving heart in their life. Once understood, the individual may then begin the necessary steps to overcome its effects.
The Decision Phase
In the next stage of therapy, the person is taught more about the nuances of forgiveness. Proper knowledge of this allows the person to truly decide if and when they decide to forgive.
But as in many big decisions in life, people may need more time before they can forgive and move forward, and that is alright. This stage may be revisited later on once the person has had more time to reflect.
The Work Phase
In this phase, the offended person is asked to understand the perspective of the offender: What was their past like? What might have been their motivation for the transgression? The hope here is that the person’s heart will begin to change as they are able to comprehend the reasons behind what had happened.
The Deepening Phase
In the final phase, the person is asked to find new meaning in the experience. Instead of simply thinking of themselves as a hapless victim, they are encouraged to identify the positive changes that have occurred. Did they become more loving? Are they stronger now or more confident?
By acknowledging the positive growth in their life because of what had occurred, it may become possible to finally forgive.
Understanding God’s Forgiveness
Despite the availability of such therapeutic steps, many still have difficulty learning how to truly let go and forgive without dreaming of vengeance in their unguarded moments. This is because of mankind’s sinful nature that seeks self-protection and the uplifting of self.
Real forgiveness, where the spirit is at peace, cannot truly be understood without knowing Jesus Christ. The way He lived on earth, obeying the Father while humbly showing his disciples how to live and love, is the best example of what it means to be human. And the way He died for us, even if we did not deserve such a sacrifice, is the perfect model for forgiveness.
If a person wants to be able to let go of the past hurts that are holding them back, they need the love of Christ in their life. And this can only be done by intentionally getting to know Him through prayer and the reading of Scripture.
Seeking Christian Counseling for Forgiveness
In Christian counseling, the latest counseling methods will be used to help the individual better understand what had happened, their current emotional state, and the effects on their life. They will then be taught what can be done to positively change their perspective so they can forgive.
But most importantly, the person will be introduced to the love and mercy of God through prayer and Scripture. By knowing more about Jesus’ compassion for sinners (of which we all fall under), the person will be able to truly understand what forgiveness entails, allowing them to have true internal peace.
If you or a friend is having difficulty forgiving others, seek professional help soon. God is asking you to forgive so that you can experience life to the fullest.
“Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Felix Koutchinski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Empty Hands”, Courtesy of Jeremy Yap, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hand Across the Water”, Courtesy of Lukas, Pexels.com; CC0 License; “Touch of the Other World”, Courtesy of Akshay Paatil, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
In almost all human relationships, conflict eventually occurs since nobody is perfect. Unrealistic expectations, uncontrollable emotions, stress, or other difficulties may cause someone to react in the wrong way, damaging the relationship. This is why forgiveness is important to make things right.
Forgiveness, however, is easier said than done. Because of pride or fear, people have difficulty forgiving one another or seeking forgiveness which is why their relationship stays broken. Yet it is not only their relationship that is affected; bitterness and regret eat away at personal peace, affecting a person even after the wrong deed has been done.
Understanding More about God’s Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the action of making things right when something wrong has been committed. True forgiveness, though, is given at an unequal scale, since the damage done – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – is more than the one seeking amends can every hope to repay.
However, in human terms, the “forgiveness” people seek and bestow is more of a restoration of balance. If someone loses something of ours, they are “forgiven” when that something is replaced and a heartfelt sorry is offered. Without said replacement, the sorry is often not enough (unless what was lost did not cost much).
And many times, even after the “forgiveness” has been given, negative thoughts (e.g. anger, doubt, guilt, regret, shame, suspicion) may still persist on both sides as their hearts and minds are still holding on to the event. It is why the relationship may not be the “same” as before, especially if the transgression was very serious.
God’s forgiveness is deeper and truer than anything people can ever give. Scripture clearly shows us that because of our sin, the separation of humankind and God is so vast that there is nothing we can do to bridge it on our own.
As the party wronged, it is only God who can choose to forgive us and restore our fellowship with Him. It is a supernatural gift from Him to wipe clean our slates even if we are still sinners and undeserving of such forgiveness. So when God forgives, it is NOT that we were able to pay off the debt, not even partially; it is because God makes it so that our debt is no more.
God’s Continuing Grace
Though all should be now good between people and God, the problem is that everyone continues to sin. Thankfully, God chooses to continually forgive. In 1 John 1:9, it is said that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
As unfair as it may sound in human terms, simply confessing our sin to Him is enough for God to forgive again. And as we are cleansed of our unrighteousness, we are then able to live according to His righteousness until we stumble again, get up, humbly ask for His forgiveness, and try once more.
Why People Have Difficulty with Forgiveness
Most people struggle with forgiveness – both giving it and even receiving it. This is because forgiveness requires a humbling of the “self,” something that most people have tried so hard to build up over the years.
The Struggle to Forgive
As earlier stated, when a transgression has occurred, especially a major one, much has been damaged. The human ego often wants the offender to somehow satisfactorily repay all the physical, emotional, and spiritual hurt that has been rendered to them.
For example, if a laptop has been broken, it is expected that it should be fixed, and quickly! But even better, if a newer and better one is given instead, then definitely all will be good. In short, in human terms, it is from a position of power, pride, and even selfishness that a person may be willing to bestow “forgiveness.”
But “true forgiveness,” like the one God offers to us, means the offended party must step down from that lofty position and simply forgive, even if it means not receiving anything in return.
And that is really difficult for most people, particularly if the transgression hurt them directly like betrayal, assault, or abuse. Unfortunately, if such anger and bitterness still linger, the person may continue to experience that hurt internally even years after the wrong deed.
The Struggle to Receive Forgiveness
Although forgiving is a challenge to most, of greater difficulty is receiving forgiveness. In sincere situations of remorse, the transgressor sits in a place of shame. In their heart, the debt they owe is something they can never pay back.
So although they may have truly been forgiven by the one they wronged, in the transgressor’s heart they still feel ashamed, so the relationship that was broken is still not truly mended.
In some cases, though the transgressor may desire forgiveness, the one who was wronged cannot be found or has passed away. Though it may seem to most that the transgressor is now “free,” the heart again still feels much sorrow and disgrace, breaking the spirit of the transgressor themself.
What the Bible Says about Forgiveness
In the Bible, forgiveness generally comes from two angles: God’s forgiveness of us and our call to forgive others. In Ephesians 4:32, Christians are told, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
As mentioned earlier, when we ask forgiveness from Him (repentance), He wipes our slate clean. It is a gift of grace from God who chooses to forgive. This gift, however, is not something that we are to keep to ourselves. If God was gracious enough to wipe our slates clean, it is expected that we too must wipe clean the slates of others who have wronged us.
In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter approaches Jesus and asks, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus then answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Thus, just as God keeps forgiving us for our continual transgressions against Him, such continuous forgiveness must be extended to others as well.
Such forgiveness is not just a mere balancing of the scales, of paying back what was owed. It is true forgiveness. Impossible as it may seem, it is the standard that Jesus asks us to follow since God did even more for us. It has been said that “we cannot give what we do not have.”
Thankfully, when we receive God’s supernatural forgiveness through repentance, He then empowers us to be able to forgive the way He forgave us. It is this type of forgiveness that can truly restore relationships which is why everyone is asked to do so.
Accepting God’s Forgiveness
Just as people have difficulty receiving the forgiveness given by others, many have much difficulty accepting God’s forgiveness in their heart. Feelings of shame and unworthiness usually plague them, causing them to believe that such mercy and love are only meant for the “good” and “loveable.”
In 1 John 1:10, Scripture states, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” As one sin is already enough to label us a sinner, there is nobody who can claim to be sinless.
This is why God gives His supernatural forgiveness to everyone freely, not because anyone deserves such grace, but because He loves everyone and wants all to be restored to Him. So if one is personally asking, “Is God’s forgiveness meant for me?”, then the answer is “yes”.
Seeking Help from Christian Counseling
For many non-believers and even new believers, this concept of God’s forgiveness is very perplexing. It often takes time to wrestle with it in prayer before it becomes clear in the heart, empowering them to forgive the way He wants everyone to.
But in other instances, underlying factors like major depression, anxiety or other mental issues may be clouding the heart and mind, preventing the acceptance of what God has to offer. If this is the case, it helps to speak to a Christian counselor who will use the latest counseling methods to discover what internal issues may be preventing this.
But most importantly, the Christian counselor will connect the person to God through prayer and Scripture so that God’s love and mercy may be felt personally.
If you or a friend you know has been struggling with forgiveness in your life, believing that you are “unforgiveable,” then seek help soon from a Christian counselor. Inner peace may only be achieved once you have been forgiven by God, and have learned how to forgive.
“Forgive,” courtesy of Tony Webster, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Bible,” courtesy of Aaron Burden, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Empty Hands”, Courtesy of Jeremy Yap, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Asking God”, Courtesy of Daniel Reche, Pixabay.com, CC0 License
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