June 15, 2009
by Biblical Counseling Ministry
A person I used to call a friend gossiped about me, and I’m so hurt by her actions. I told her something in confidence, and she told my other friends. I can’t even show my face at church. I’m so angry with her. I don’t talk to her anymore, and I know that’s wrong. How do I handle my hurt and anger?
Gossip kills good friendships. As the Proverb says: “He who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9). On top of your hurt feelings are probably other feelings, such as sadness over the loss of your friendship, shame because of the secret that your friend revealed, and anger at your friend for being insensitive.
More feelings may be rumbling through your spirit that only you can identify. Set aside some prayerful moments to ask the Lord to search your heart, and write your feelings in a letter to Him. Catalogue your heartache, and don’t stop with the feelings you have regarding your friend. Include feelings toward others who have hurt you. You may be surprised at the common threads that run through your relationships.
As you ponder your list, remember that the Lord cares about your feelings. Jesus was also betrayed by His friends, so He understands your sorrow and He can comfort you. The Bible doesn’t condemn you for having emotions. Be careful, though, to handle your emotions well. You may recall Paul’s words: “‘Be angry, and yet do not sin’” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger isn’t as much of a problem as are the sinful acts that anger produces. Unresolved anger can lead to holding grudges, backbiting, faultfinding, and a whole list of sins. So the answer to anger is to resolve it as soon as possible—before it rules your life.
This mental image might help you take the first step in resolving your feelings. Imagine all the feelings that you wrote in your letter to the Lord as a big, heavy ball. Now that you have this emotional ball, what can you do with it? Well, you could try to swallow it (repress it), but that might make you emotionally or physically ill. You could fling it at someone else (vent it), but that would hurt your other friendships. You could play catch with it by tossing it back and forth with someone you trust (express it). Talking about hurt feelings is better than not talking about them. But in the end, you’ll still go home carrying this wretched ball.
So what are you to do with this burdensome ball of hurt? Give it to the Lord. Surrender your feelings to Him in prayer, and picture yourself handing over all these feelings to Him.
Releasing our negative emotions to the Lord is the healthiest way to handle them. Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). To surrenderyour hurt and anger to the Lord means to fully acknowledge your feelings, admit your inability to handle them, revoke your right to revenge, and trust Him to be your defender. I use the word surrender because it best describes our act of handing over to God something that truly belongs to Him—the right to hurt back. The Lord says, “‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’” (Romans 12:19 NIV). He wants us to trust Him to set things right and even the score. When we surrender our anger, we may still feel hurt, but that hurt won’t express itself in active or passive retaliation.
Have you surrendered your anger concerning your friend? Or are you hanging on to your right to hurt her for hurting you? You may be at the point where you don’t want to hurt her, but you do feel wounded by her words. That emotion is okay. You can still feel hurt—just don’t let that hurt express itself in angry revenge. The next step is to return evil with good. Once you no longer feel the need to take your own revenge, you will be free to demonstrate the love of Christ to the other person. Listen to Jesus’s words:
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)
A kind word truly can melt a hard heart. We encourage you to find a way to show love to your friend, perhaps through a gift or a card. Do you think she would be receptive to that?
Finally, talk to your friend about your feelings and listen to her talk about hers. Listening is not the same as agreeing. Listening is understanding the other’s thoughts about an issue and echoing back their feelings. After listening to her, you may say, “You thought it was okay to share my problem with others so they could pray for me,” or “You felt hurt by my response to you.” That doesn’t mean your friend is right. Sharing your secrets without asking your permission was wrong. But remember, your goal isn’t to determine who is right and who is wrong. Just seek to understand one another—not to win an argument. Winning an argument while losing a friend isn’t worth it. You may even tell your friend, “We disagree on this issue, but that’s okay. I still love you, and I understand your feelings.” In this way, you can acknowledge your differences rather than let your differences drive a wedge between you.
After taking these steps, forgiveness will naturally follow. Hopefully, your friend will ask you to forgive her. If not, you can still forgive her by letting go of the offense. You’ve worked through your feelings; you’ve communicated clearly to her; now . . . let it go.