From Anger to Forgiveness to Peace

By Noelle Sterne

Too often we hold onto hurts, slights, annoyances, insults, betrayals, wrongs, resentments, and outright anger for months, years, and decades. Before we blink, it’s our lifetime. You know the stories: Brothers estranged for twenty-five years over an argument they can’t remember, mother and daughter who exchange only frosty Christmas cards, childhood buddies who turned in opposite directions in a huff over a single adult remark, an employee’s silently seething career-long resentment at the boss.

Most of us carry other angers too, from trunkloads of rage at the person who cheated us out of a large sum or suddenly walked out of what we thought was a great marriage to the proverbial uncapped toothpaste tube, empty dish left in the refrigerator, tool not back on its hook.

Whatever their size and importance and whoever we see as the perpetrator, our anger and resentment poison our outlook and blacken our perspective. But we can vanquish these devastating feelings and even, if we wish, repair the relationships. Here are six principles and eight tools to help you eradicate your anger, forgive, and arrive at peace.

1. It’s okay to get angry.

You are entitled to feel anger at the other person’s wrongdoing, to burst out with disappointment, shock, rage. Those emotions are cathartic and healthy.

BUT . . .  too often we hang onto these emotions. We never seem to express them enough. Any slight reminder triggers us again. They become our chronic reaction, hardening in us like coal. Unhealthily, these reactions translate into physical symptoms and full-blown illnesses, and mainstream medicine has begun to accept these mind-body connections. 

Louise Hay in You Can Heal Your Life offers enlightening correspondences between emotional causes and physical illnesses: arthritis is associated with criticism and resentment, bursitis with repressed anger, and malignant growths of all kinds with rehearsing old hurts, inability to say no, and held-in resentments. 

So express your anger. Scream into a pillow with the door closed, shout on the highway with the car windows rolled up, or curse in the basement with the exhaust fan on.

2. It’s not okay to cling to your anger.

Express—Yes. Obsess, linger, replay, grind away—No. This is the stuff of disease, depression, and decrepitude.

Even if your anger is buried beneath your daily activities, you can be sure that it is siphoning off your energy, enthusiasm, and hope. It’s plugging up your joy in living now and tainting your outlook for tomorrow. 

But . . . you can free yourself. 

3. Realize they needed to do that.

This statement, impossible as it may seem to swallow, suggests one way to freedom. It’s the first real step in forgiving others. 

See the culprit’s misdeeds or terrible actions as not entirely personal, not aimed specifically and maliciously at you. But if you feel they were directed at you, accept that too.

Either way, go deeper. It is more likely that something very deep inside them was the real cause and they’re profoundly hurting. The incident with you may have triggered in them a lack of childhood love and support, fury at an absent parent, frustration at a stalled career, jealousy of everyone, feelings of unworthiness. In psychological terms, they have projected their original hurt onto you.

In other words, they needed to do that.

4. Tell yourself It was the best that they could do at that moment.

As you see they needed to do it, recognize too it was the best they could do at the time. This recognition doesn’t mean you’re condoning, excusing them, or feeling superior. Rather, at the moment of their “unforgivable” action, accept that they acted in the best way they knew how. Wherever they were in their development and even with good intentions, they were doing the very best they could. 

5. Recognize that the “sin” against you simply “missed the mark.”

The terrible thing you feel they perpetrated upon you can be seen another way. In Aramaic, the original Biblical language, the word for “sin” also means an error or mistake. From this standpoint, a sin is not irrevocable, to be pushed in our faces at the Last Judgment. It is simply a mistake. As author and Unity minister Eric Butterworth writes, it is “missing the mark” (Discover the Power Within You). 

So, see that other person’s wrongdoing, heinous as you’ve judged it, as simply missing the mark. Not easy, but as you do, you’ll gain distance, put space between you and the action, and halt your blame. 

6. Know that your continued resentment and blame don’t hurt the other guy.

Hugging those angry feelings to you only injures yourself. Dr. Fred Luskin, author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, points this out in an interview (with Salley Shannon, “Five Steps That Could Change Your Life,” Woman’s Day, February 1, 2004). “By carrying around these hurts, you are letting the person who harmed you continue to inflict new bruises.” Do you want to be that masochistic? 

Forgiving Advice 

How do we stop the self-imposed damage? Here are eight effective tools.

  1. Remind. New Thought teacher and author Gerald Jampolsky advises in Goodbye to Guilt (p. 154): 

    If you feel tempted today—regardless of the seeming justification—to

    blame anyone, remind yourself that in the loving eyes of God we are all

    sinless and innocent.

  1. Affirm. Hay gives powerful affirmations (Love Yourself, Heal Your Life Workbook, p. 97):

     • I am willing to go beyond my own limitations and judgments.

     • I forgive them, whether they deserve it or not.

     • I release myself from prison. I am safe and free.

     • I give myself permission to let go.

  1. Repeat: The moment those fiery thoughts about this person enter your mind, replace them with repeated words such as “Love,” “Namaste,” and “You are Loved.” Amazingly, your anger will dissipate. 

4. Meditate. Think of the individual in love and light, as whole.

              A Course in Miracles (Workbook, Lesson 78), instructs us: 

     Let me behold my savior in this one You have appointed as the one for   

     me to ask to lead me to the holy light in which he stands, that I may 

     join with him. 

  1. Visualize. See an image of this person in Light, extending a hand to you, smiling. Hear this person speaking with you in a flowing exchange.
  1. Ask. Ask your Inner Voice what you may have done to cause or contribute to the situation. Letting your ego go, you become open to candid introspection, and answers will come. 
  2. Ask again. To heal the situation, ask your Inner Voice what to say, if to say anything, in what circumstances, and when. You will be told.
  3. Act. As the answers come, act and say what is in your heart—in person, on the phone, in a letter, or in your imagination. However the other person responds, or doesn’t, and whether you resume the relationship or not, you will feel better.

However you choose to use the statements and tools here, you will feel lighter. You will feel freer. As you let go of anger and forgive, you will feel peace.