Can you forgive and still feel anger?

Can you forgive and still feel anger? I was on a call-in radio program the other day and a couple still feel angerpeople seemed confused about their situation. They thought they had forgiven their offender but were still angry. It made them doubt their forgiveness for the person.

My answer was: don’t be so quick to assume you haven’t forgiven them. It depends upon where you direct your anger. If you direct it toward just the loss you incurred, then yes: you can forgive and still feel anger.

Why You Might Still Feel Anger

Whenever you lose something or someone, one of the emotions that accompanies that loss is anger. It’s natural. You can’t help it. It would be abnormal to not be angry.  

The key to dealing with anger isn’t so much in whether you get angry or not but in how long you allow it to remain with you and how you process your anger.

The key to dealing with anger isn’t so much in whether you get angry or not but in how long you allow it to remain with you and how you process the anger.

Anger is a natural part of the grieving process. Until you move past the loss, you will still have it even though you have chosen to not get back at your offender (which is one definition of forgiveness). The feeling of anger comes from not being able to control your loss. Someone died. You got fired. You got dumped in a relationship. You have no control over these things. You are powerless and it makes you mad. But you can still forgive by refusing to get even.

Anger Toward Your Offender Leads to Retaliation

On the other hand, if you still feel anger toward your offender after an extended period, I would say, no, you can’t forgive and still be angry. Being angry at your offender is a form of retaliation and that is the opposite of forgiveness. Your anger drives you to even the score and you can’t rest until you do.  You waste years getting back at someone, even if it’s just wishing them harm in your mind.

I hope this brings some clarity to a common concern. If you’ve given up the right to get even with your offender, that’s forgiveness. If your loss still hurts, that’s a normal emotion that will exist as long as you feel the loss. As you come to accept the loss and move on with your life, the anger will slowly dissipate.

The trick to moving on with your life is to stop looking to your offender to restore what they took from you and solve all your problems. You will continue to feel anger if you look for that because you will continually be faced with a loss.

Turn your attention from them and to God. Ask God to restore what was lost and to make you whole again. Your life may never be the SAME, but it can still be full and fruitful if God fills you back up.
STUCK Cover

I discuss issues of anger, loss, grief, and forgiveness in my book STUCKhow to overcome your anger and reclaim your life – available in paperback, Kindle or audiobook. Click the link to read samples or listen to a portion of the audiobook.

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7 thoughts on “Can you forgive and still feel anger?

  1. Rebecca

    I know what really helped me with this recently – I have a very bitter ex who was (and hopefully is done but I am not sure) always doing awful things to try to get back at me; vengeful, spiteful, evil things. Normally, I would let go and let God take care of it but this time the lies, and crazy things really really got to me. I tried to forgive and apologized for what I knew I had done wrong in the marriage but apparently that was not enough and he was even holding out on any form of apology trying to spite me. I even got past that. I didn’t need an apology etc… I tried to move on but every time I did, and things were calm and peaceful, he’d stir them up. Sharing a child made it all the more difficult. Having mutual friends and acquaintances that he would purposely lie to knowing they would tell me to “hurt me” made it all the worse. I did what I never wanted to do – I reacted. I became one of “those” people – spiteful, vindictive myself. Just recently, I refused to react anymore. This is one of the things that really helped me.
    Romans 12 14:21
    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good.
    Whenever anyone talks to me about karma, I always say…it’s not karma, it’s God, taking care of his own. How soon we forget when we let our anger get the better of us. I am usually pretty good about keeping things in perspective, but in this case, he made me so mad, I can honestly say, I just didn’t care about “perspective” anymore. So, guess what popped up in my daily Bible reading?? 🙂 God reminded me. 🙂 and again today Pastor, you’ve unknowingly reminded me too with this post. 🙂 Have a great day. Thank you!

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Glad I could be of help! Isn’t the power of anger amazing? That’s why we need submit our emotions to the Spirit of God to reign them in and use them to be constructive and not destructive. Thanks for taking the time to share.

    2. Terri Majors

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I feel so much anger when I see mylittle girl cry and say “why mama? Why did daddy and bubba leave us?” That is when I feel the anger bleeding out of my pores. Also I have taken care of all 3 of our kids while he lost job after job due to being arrested for domestic violence. I feel i have wasted 11 years of my time listening to him yell and scream at us over the smallest things.
      I do finally feel greatful that he has left us alone for 1yr and a half now! I wish I can take the pain away from my baby girl. I will read that scripture in Romans. Thank you again for sharing your story and scripture! God Bless You♥♡♥♡♥
      Terri Majors

  2. Pingback: Response about Forgiveness… | Repairing Shattered Pieces

  3. Lane Sandstrom

    I think that wanting to forgive and actually forgiving, may not seem like the same thing, but in Gods eyes, they are the same. I had a girlfriend that betrayed me, and I was angry, hurt and devastated. I prayed and asked God to help me to forgive her, and she said she was sorry, but there was so much anger and hurt, that I had to wonder if I had actually forgiven her. I finally realized that because I wanted to forgive, and God knew this, I had forgiven her. But, since anger is an emotional process, that I have no control over, I will probably always get angry if I think about it. The key is: to try and not think about it. And, don’t beat yourself up over the fact that when you do think about it, there may still be anger. I believe over time, the anger will subside, and you won’t care any more.

    1. Brandon

      I know I’m late to this conversation but I just wanted to say good job @ Lane for really an amazing comment.

      Personally the process of forgiveness has been very difficult towards my father. Even though I want to forgive him I think what he did deserves no forgiveness and that he’s the scum of the earth.

      I’m glad to hear other people’s perspectives. Cheers.

  4. Silas

    Thanks Lane, very poignant and the best advise I’ve gotten on this topic. Thank you so much.

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