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My battle with anger and depression #ForgivenessFriday

May 24, 2013

I was sitting in my recliner physically frozen and emotionally numb. My then 9-year-old daughter asked, “Daddy, are you okay?” Not wanting to tell her about my internal battle, I responded, “Yea, I’m okay”. But I was far from okay.

For the first time in my life, I was facing a new enemy: depression.

If you’ve ever fought this battle, you know how exhausting it is. Some days start off fine. But then, without notice, a fog rolls in and pulls you into an emotional sinkhole. What Winston Churchill referred to as his personal “black dog” was a “gray fog” for me.

I’d never struggled with this before! How did I end up here?

#ForgivenessFriday is about unleashing forgiveness in the hearts of people. (Click HERE to read the beginning of this series.)

In late 2008, my pastor/best friend and I were suddenly “former friends”. One of the tragic results of our broken friendship was the negative impact it had on the hundreds of mutual relationships we shared. All of the beautiful smiles, warm hugs, and easy laughter seemed to have been erased. (You can click HERE to read why our friendship ended.)

I was profoundly sad. Many of us were. I wanted to move on. Many of us did. But I just couldn’t. Forgiveness felt as close as a distant planet.

In the aftermath, I became depressed. I would later discover that carrying a grudge while ignoring my heart was a recipe for depression.

sad

Did you know that your heart has a voice? I didn’t. Did you know that your feelings are trying to tell you something important? I didn’t. Did you know that listening to your heart’s voice is part of the forgiveness process? I didn’t!

I usually have two extreme responses to my emotions:

1. I let them control me
2. I ignore them completely

Feelings are great indicators but terrible leaders. Our feelings shouldn’t lead but they shouldn’t be ignored.

I was ignoring my heart but demanding it produce forgiveness. That’s like ignoring my body’s health and expecting it to run a marathon or like ignoring the warning lights on my car’s dashboard and expecting it to drive me across the country. My heart was saying, “When you’re ready to listen, we’ll talk.” But I just kept screaming, “Be quiet and give me forgiveness!” This daily inner argument continued for months and eventually my exhausted heart sank into depression.

Feelings are an important part of the forgiveness process. They reveal how pain is impacting our heart. Why is this important? The heart is the forgiveness “launching pad” according to Matt. 18:35.

Identify my feelings? Isn’t that what therapists and women do? I just felt “bad” and needed to forgive so I could feel “good”. Turns out that approach didn’t work out too well for me.

With the help of a friend, I eventually identified three specific feelings my heart experienced: a deep hurt and a profound sadness which eventually turned into anger. I understand now that my attempt to constantly suppress my anger led to my depression.

According to Dr. Chip Dodd’s book, The Voice of the Heart, all emotions are God-given and intended for good . . . even my anger. (Productive anger was displayed by Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus.)

Do you want to forgive? Do you know how the pain of your offense has impacted your heart (forgiveness launching pad)? Listening to your heart is a spiritual discipline. Identifying your feeling(s) allows you to listen and fully surrender more of yourself to God.

Last Friday, I talked about the importance of identifying the specific injustice. (Click HERE for a list of typical injustices.)

Next, identify the impact of the injustice on your heart.

To help you identify it’s impact, ask yourself, “When I think about (name your injustice), what’s the main emotion I feel?” Identify your feeling(s) from the list of eight below.

After you identify your feeling(s), don’t lead it lead you but don’t ignore it. Instead, do these three things:

1. Feel the feeling(s) fully
2. Tell the truth about what you feel
3. Surrender control of that feeling(s) to God.

Your heart is the forgiveness launching pad. Listen to your heart’s voice before you demand it produce forgiveness.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Prov. 4:23

Know someone struggling to forgive? Will you forward this to them?

Dr. Dodd’s list of 8 feelings w/benefit & impairment:

Feeling                 —              Benefit                —              Impairment

1) Hurt  –  Names woundedness & begins healing  –  Resentment

2) Sadness – Allows us to value/honor what’s present & missed – Self-pity

3) Loneliness – Allows us to ask for help, reach out relationally – Apathy

4) Fear  –  Helps us practice/prepare for accomplishment  –  Anxiety/Rage

5) Anger – Helps us tell the truth/dare to hope  – Depression/Perfection

6) Shame  –  Awakens us to humility  –  Toxic shame/Pride/Rage

7) Guilt  –  Gives us freedom to seek forgiveness  –  Pride/Toxic shame

8) Gladness  –  Reveals the richness of life  –  Happiness/Entertainment

Click HERE for PART 5 of #FridayForgiveness

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From → Forgiveness

6 Comments
  1. Wow, this really brought back a flood of emotion, Mark. I went through a 2 year battle with “clinical depression” from 2002-2004, and it was brutal.
    Last week we went over the forgiveness teaching at CR. Saturday night at our Step Study we looked at being willing to forgive and make amends. Then I read this post after hearing Daniel’s message on deceit. I’m asking God, so what are You trying to say to me Lord? Sheesh, in 15 years of recovery, I think I have written down and shared my every resentment with God and another trusted individual.
    As I thought about Sunday’s message, I wondered what part deceit plays in un forgiveness. The story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 came to mind. I always wondered how that guy who had been forgiven so much, could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him so little – until I realized (came out of denial) about my own debt to Jesus, and His amazing grace to forgive me. For so long I deceived myself and others that I really wasn’t such a bad person, so forgiveness of MY sin was not such a big deal. Deceit…like when I point out other people’s wrongs, I don’t see the three fingers pointing right back at me! Sure, I may not have murdered anyone, but Jesus took on His holy, sinless body my just-as-murderous anger, resentment and hard-hearted ness, shame, guilt, and pathetic self-pity. When I realize MY sin put Him there, it becomes a commitment (regardless of how i feel) to forgive. Once I “realize I am not God and I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing”, then I am free to turn over the feelings of anger to the One who already took the sin upon Himself and forgave it. The “old things are passing away, the new has come”. I sometimes have to do this many times a day.
    The work of recovery for me is to continually accept what I can not change, have the courage to face my character defects without shame (since Jesus has already forgiven them) and trust Him (and at least one other person) to point out any self-deceit regarding residual behavior or attitude that keeps me stuck in patterns of the “old life”. For me, this is the path of freedom from unforgiveness, shame and self-hatred which brought me into that awful pit of depression. It took therapy, medication, and 3 recovery meetings a week for over a year to bring me back to sanity. It’s work, but it’s worth whatever it takes to walk in newness of life and freedom from unforgiveness.

    • Connie I think you’re right. Deceit plays a HUGE role in unforgiveness. I think we trick ourselves into believing something untrue about our offender (next Friday’s post) and ourselves. Thanks for sharing these GREAT insights!

  2. Chuck Grace permalink

    Thank you again Mark for your honest testimony of your fight with depression. I also appreciate Connie’s sharing.
    I have had to deal with depression in a different way and that was to be a support for my wife’s bout with depression. It was doubly difficult for me as it resulted from a poor business decision I had made. I owned and operated a cabinet manufacturing business for over twenty five years and for the most was a wonderful business both profitable and creative. We always tried to honor God in all we do but that did not insulate us from problems. In my fifteenth year in business I made the decision to expand the business against my wife’s will. In that process I hired many more workers and leased larger equipment. Consequently, I took on bigger jobs. Bigger jobs meant increased revenue and that was proving the decision was the right one to make. One of the jobs we took on was with a company building a large professional building in Westlake. This was a job that would consume two months of time to complete so I stepped up the building schedule to complete it in a shorter time. All went well until it came time for the final payment and I was informed the management company we had the contract with had filled bankruptcy. I was extended financially in labor and materials on this job to well over $300,000. In an instant my life seemed flushed down the toilet. I was so angry with God. How could He let this happen to me? I lived by His rules and this is what I get? The icing on the cake is when my wife found out what happened she went in a deep depression. My guilt was compounded by the fact that I did not listen to her when she said the risk of expanding was too great. Her depression was at the point that she was inconsolable. The pressure on me to solve this dilemma was mounting daily. I had to lay off half my crew and work 16 hours a day to pay the bills, plus take care of a sick wife and deal with all the legal things as a result of that bad job. I was broken, helpless and on my knees praying for help. In my prayers the Lord made it clear I needed to go to the owner of the management company and reconcile the situation. I tried to make an appointment and they would not see me so I took the afternoon off and went to their office. When I entered the office there was no receptionist, so I called out and a man in a suit with no tie stepped out and asked me what I needed. After telling him who I was, he stared at me for a while before asking me to come into his office. It was one of the most uncomfortable situations I have ever experience in my life. During the course of the conversation I found out he too was cheated by investors that backed his company. His indebtedness was so much greater than mine I was actually sorry for him and then I found out he was a Christian brother. He had no assets left and to peruse a expensive legal course seemed fruitless. I did something I never believe I could ever do. I forgave him and wished him the best and left. I don’t know what happened to him after that day but some how that burden I was carrying seem a whole lot lighter. I took a while but the business healed and so did my wife. We continued to live by the Lord’s precepts and are now retired and debt free.

    • Chuck I can’t imagine the burden you must must’ve carried. That sounds like such a difficult and painful season. The way you handled this is admirable. Hearing other people’s story of forgiveness and reconciliation encourages us in our pursuit. So thank you for sharing this Chuck.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Ready to forgive? IGNORE Your Story and IDENTIFY Your Injury. #ForgivenessFriday |
  2. 5 Reasons you won’t forgive #ForgivenessFriday |

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