Finding Freedom; How to Let Go of Anger
I learned to drive when I was 7.
My father taught me, and he had been a race car driver. So while my friends were still playing with Barbies, I was right where I wanted to be: out on dirt roads in the country, learning how to clutch properly so that I didn’t grind the gears on my Dad’s old pick-up.
My childhood on a farm was far different from the childhood my children have here in Los Angeles. I remember being turned loose in the pasture with a John Deere and the only instruction being, “Here’s the brake, here’s the gas, don’t go near the pond.”
It was a fantastic childhood! I grew up knowing that my parents trusted me, and that they were nearby and watching if I needed them. Although I can’t give that particular driving experience to my children, we’re constantly looking for the experiences that will give them the learning opportunities that will prepare them for THEIR life missions, which are different than mine.
Driving (and later, flying) has always given me a sense of freedom. There’s no feeling in the world quite like the wind in your hair, the warm sun on your face and your favorite tunes on the radio. Bliss!
While he definitely appreciated speed (an inherited trait), Dad was attentive to the need for safety. Before I ever had a learner’s permit, he had taught me how to handle hydroplaning, black ice, mud, steep inclines, and the greatest safety concern of all: other drivers.
Which came in handy this morning.
At the corner of my daughter’s middle school is a four way stop. I was tempted to only pause at the stop sign, a California (rolling) stop, but I came to a complete stop, and waited. And waited.
Because careening down the residential cross street was a construction pick-up loaded with lumber and driven by a woman who looked as though she had no intention of even slowing down for this four way stop.
As she barreled through the intersection, she leaned out the window, gestured wildly, and yelled a stream of profanities. Ironic, since she was the one running the stop sign.
Now, I don’t really get too worked up about anything. So I didn’t even give this experience a second thought, until later in the day when I encountered another angry person. The woman in front of me in the grocery line was angry that an item had been mis-shelved (most likely by another shopper) and wasn’t the price that she anticipated.
I began to wonder if there was some astronomical event happening that was pulling too tightly on everyone’s hair follicles or if there is truly an “Epidemic of Anger.”
Then I went online, and that settled the question. There’s an Epidemic of Anger.
So how do you LET IT GO (cue Elsa)?
Forgiveness is the answer.
We get that. We know that we have to forgive and move on in order to be happy. But HOW do you let go? Forgiving a driver and an angry shopper is one thing. It’s easy enough to let petty annoyances go.
You can say to yourself, “I will not give up control of my feelings to a stranger. I WILL DECIDE HOW I FEEL.” And you can walk away.
But what about those soul stealing resentments that fester inside us, the ones we just can’t seem to set down?
They keep us warm.
They give us energy.
Or so we think. We don’t see that they’re slowly enslaving us.
Let me tell you how Corrie ten Boom let go.
Cornielia “Corrie” ten Boom was a Dutch Christian, who, with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family sheltered Jewish families and helped them out of the Netherlands. They build a false wall in their home to create “The Hiding Place” for families. They smuggled in extra food in rolled up newspapers, and extra clothing inside their coats and briefcases.
When the Nazis invaded her home, Corrie and her family were separated and taken to several concentration camps. Some family members were released, some died; Corrie and her sister Betsie were eventually taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany, where Betsie died on December 16, 1944. Before she died, she told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.”
Corrie’s faith propelled her forward. And she survived.
After her liberation, she wrote her story as a book titled, “The Hiding Place.” Many years later she accepted invitations to share her story as a public speaker. Her focus was on forgiving, letting go of anger, hurt, betrayal. And she spoke of the freedom that comes from forgiving.
At one event where she was speaking, a large group of attendees came forward after her speech to shake her hand. It was a common occurrence, but this time there was something different. In the sea of faces, she saw one that she recognized immediately. It was one of the former Nazi guards.
She froze as he came toward her. He told her who he was, and that since his time as a guard, he had come to God and sought His forgiveness. He asked her if she was willing to forgive him.
Corrie ten Boom then said:
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
“… The message that God forgives has a … condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. …
“… ‘Help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“… Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart.’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”
(Corrie ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord (1974), 54–55.)
Corrie’s faith gave her the direction and strength she needed to be free of the cancerous burden of anger.
Think of the exultent happiness of that freedom! Every time I drive down the coastline and feel the wind blowing through my hair and feel the sun on my face, I AM FREE!
By holding on to anger, you voluntarily give away your freedom. You can keep control of your feelings, or you can take back control of your feelings, by doing as Corrie did. Take action to forgive. I’m going to repeat that, because it is so important:
TAKE ACTION TO FORGIVE!
Then you, too, will have freedom. And you will teach your children to be free.