Can you forgive and still feel anger? I was on a call-in radio program the other day and a couple people 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.
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.
I discuss issues of anger, loss, grief, and forgiveness in my book STUCK…how 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.