When someone violates me, what do I do? When we grow up in a Christian environment, we are commonly taught two easy things. The first is inward examination. What am I doing that ticked that person off? The second tactic is to be angry and tell the other person how you feel. Both these common tactics easily veer down unsafe pathways.
First, let’s look at inward examination. Are you responsible for someone else’s choices? No. The way every person on earth acts and reacts is their own problem. We are each responsible for our own issues. If someone violates me, they are responsible, not me. However, how we respond to violation is our problem. We do honestly need to look at ourselves, but not ask the question, “How can I change to placate the person who offended me?” Instead, we need to remember how not to bow down to that idol. God is a jealous God. The question to ask is, “How can I please God?”
God gives us directions on how to respond to harm done to us. We talk to that person. If that person does not listen, we talk to them with other people. If they do not listen, we do not treat them like a brother or sister. Instead we protect ourselves from them, by attending only to their life sustaining needs if necessary (Matthew 18:15-17, Proverbs 25:21, 22). There are times when it’s never safe or appropriate to talk to someone about their offense, such as when it threatens your well-being or life. God does not appreciate lack of stewardship of one’s own body. It is one of the reason he gave commandments to his people, Israel, about how to take care of themselves in the wilderness.
If we live to please God, we will analyze our actions and responses to others with filters. Some of the filters are verses like these:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Ephesians 5:22-23). “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:4-8).
Secondly, what do we do with anger and hurt? Anger is the natural response to harm done to oneself. It is not a primary emotion. It is an easy emotion that covers up a primary emotion, sadness. It makes us sad when other people violate our boundaries or fail to meet our needs. It hurts. Very often we lash out angrily, maybe not to them, but to others about them. We vent. Talking about things is healthy but I challenge you to go one step further. Explore the pain. What should we be doing about the grief?
Grief feels helpless. Anger feels more useful. It feels like a safety valve. It lets off pressure so we do not implode or explode. Anger is not wrong. It is an emotion that reveals that something is wrong, pay attention. It is wrong if we use it against someone. There is someone who can validate your anger, someone who has been there. It is God. When we are angry, we should release our anger to God. He already knows you’re angry. He can listen and validate it and has the power to take over from there. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19). Grieving the harm done to you might simply be as little as saying, “I’m sad this happened. I feel hurt. Or it might mean crying and writing down the losses, then burning the paper. Grief is an acknowledgement of something one misses and letting go of what should have been. It is draining, but once acknowledged and processed, life is renewed and the new normal begins.