A friend on Facebook recently suggested a blog by a young woman who is about to get married for the second time. In her blog, she speaks of the lessons she learned from her first marriage.
“I didn’t speak my mind about how I truly felt,” she wrote. “I shoved it down, in an effort to be pleasing and perfect… Anger, resentment and self-loathing had taken center stage in our marriage.” After seven years of keeping it all in, the blogger found herself in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer.
As a pastor, I have dealt with numerous people who have struggled in relationships because they allow others to hurt them. They suffer in silence until the resentment and anger eat away their health, their relationships and their lives.
Are you a compulsive people pleaser? Do you put up with bad behavior? Do you suffer in silence?
Sadly, the advice our friends give us is to give that person a taste of their own medicine. “You can’t let people walk all over you,” they tell us. “You have to look out for yourself.” The advice professional counselors often give is to express your anger. Let it all out in whatever way you can. You have to let steam out of the kettle before it blows.
The problem with such advice is that it is based on selfishness. It doesn’t really deal with the anger. In fact, oftentimes it gives way to the anger.
When someone slaps you on the cheek, what does Jesus tell you to do? Turn so they can strike the other one as well (Matthew 5:39). Jesus speaks of loving our enemies and praying for those who do us wrong (Matthew 5:44). The Apostle Paul urges us to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
But won’t that lead to the problems the young woman mentioned in her blog? Won’t that enable the other person to continue in their bad behavior? Won’t that eventually give me a bleeding ulcer?
Patiently showing love and forgiveness doesn’t mean suffering in silence. It is not love to silently allow someone to treat you poorly.
Yes, God wants you to forgive the person, but he also wants you to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). When your husband curses at you or calls you unrepeatable names, it doesn’t help him for you to suffer in silence. God wants you to speak up – not in anger, but in love. He wants you to patiently help him to be the man God wants him to be.
Such love is patient but firm. Such love doesn’t enable the person to continue in bad behavior. Such love may eventually lead you to leave in order to help the person see how hurtful their behavior is. The motivation, however, is always love – not anger.
But then how do we get rid of the anger? How do we keep the resentment from building up inside us?
By forgiving just as God forgives you in Jesus. Stop looking at what the other person has done to you. Look at yourself and all the ugly things you have done in your life. God forgives you because of Jesus. You can forgive your husband. You can forgive your wife. I know it’s hard. Personally, I find forgiveness the hardest thing God asks me to do.
It takes prayer and the strength God gives in his Word, but you can forgive.
Just remember that forgiving doesn’t mean allowing a person to continue in their bad behavior without saying anything. Love does not suffer in silence. Love speaks.