Actor Jim Caviezel portraying Jesus Christ in the 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ"
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”(Luke 23:33-34)
In the first five parts of this blog series on The Power of Forgiveness, I presented much of what Jesus taught on forgiveness. Today I'd like to shift the focus a bit to some practical advice on dealing with our anger and practicing forgiveness. The following is a great article from one of my favorite authors, Dr. David Lieberman, Ph.D., who is a best-selling author of 11 books on practical psychology. (Here's a link to the website he posts on.)
How To Deal With Nonsense Criticism
Don't get angry. Why let someone else dictate how you feel?
by Dr. David Lieberman, Ph.D.
When someone is rude to us our first reaction is to protect our ego. We get upset and respond with something like, "How dare you talk to me like that!" "Don't you yell at me!" We make this angry person our problem.
Why let someone else dictate how you feel? Getting angry gives another person control over your emotional state. That's a lot of power for one person to possess, especially someone that is rude to you.
If you resist your initial inclination to get defensive, you may be surprised at what happens. Instead of, "Why are you treating me like this?" try saying, "You seem to be having a rough day." Rather than, "I didn't do anything. Don't talk to me like that!" say, "This seems to have upset you." Don't take possession of his problem. It's his problem, not yours.
The psychological dynamics change dramatically as soon as you use the word "I" or "me." Then it becomes something between you and him. By using the word "you," you keep the ball in his court and the problem remains his sole property.
It has nothing to do with you as long as you don't try to take part ownership of it.
You will find that by not responding defensively you won't become as upset by the exchange. It has nothing to do with you as long as you don't try to take part ownership of it.
Sometimes criticism comes in the form of nicely packaged advice. In this instance thank the person for offering her insight, and then later you can decide whether or not there is any credence to what she said. Sometimes it can be hard to separate out the message from the messenger, but when you do, you may find some good advice.
Thank the person regardless of how unproductive or self-serving the remark is. Recognize that if the advice is more of a put-down than it is constructive, she is coming from a place of pain and she needs to do this in order to feel good about herself. Have compassion and empathy for her and rise above it. If you get angry or annoyed, it's the same as kicking the shins of a 90-year-old man who wants to pick a fight with you. First, no matter what happens, you can't win. And second, what are you doing? Do not get defensive. Do not engage her. Simply say "Thank you, I will give that some thought," sincerely and directly.
If you want, you can then ask a question regarding how or why she herself is so capable, without being sarcastic!
Comment: "You know, Aaron, you were way off your game in that meeting." Response: "Really? I'll have to review that later. You're so great for looking out for me. How would you have handled it?"
Comment: "Marcy, you know that outfit is not very flattering on you." Response: "Oh, thanks for letting me know. A lot of friends wouldn't tell me something like that because they'd think I might get upset. You're such a special person. Where did you get such a great sense of fashion from?"
Comment: "I thought you were trying to lose weight. Do you think you should be eating that?" Response: "Oh, you're so sweet for remembering that I'm dieting. Thank you. You seem like you have great willpower. I'd love for you to tell me your secret."
This person is being disrespectful to you because she craves respect herself. By thanking her and asking her for her input, you feed her psyche and end the "attack."
Of course, not all criticism comes from people in pain. And just because it's not done in a caring way does not mean that this person doesn't still care about you. She may not be able to critique you effectively and kindly, even though she does really care.
Alas, we should always keep in mind the optimum motivation for holding our tongue. The Talmud (Gittin 56a) reveals that the strength of God is manifest through His non-reaction to the insults and blaspheming of the wicked. Elsewhere, the Midrash states that one who is silent in the face of insults is called pious, and a partner with God. What greater motivation do we really need?
So the next time someone fires an insult or criticism your way, remember you don't lose by saying nothing in response.
In Matthew's Gospel (12:43-45) Jesus talks figuratively about cleaning house. Let's listen. “When an unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first." We all know that once you clean your house it only stays clean for a little while and the dirt magically returns again. You've got to continue to clean your house if you want it to stay clean. In the same way, we've got to continue to clean our hearts and souls of the dirt that piles up inside. The dirt in our hearts and souls are "evil spirits." They're the bad, sinful, self-indulgent behaviors in our lives. It could be addictive behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drugs, or over-eating. In our case let's call the "evil spirit" holding on to anger and resentment, or our inability to forgive others. When we try to rid ourselves of our destructive behaviors (cleaning house), we'll always be vulnerable that they'll return again in force. If you're an ex-smoker or drinker, you know you're one cigarette or one drink away from getting re-addicted. If you've struggled with your weight, you know you're one piece of candy away from regaining all your weight and then some. In the same way, if you've been accustomed to holding on to anger and resentment, then you're just one insult away from an unforgiving heart. Practicing forgiveness is like keeping our house clean. It takes work, but the payoff is a clean and tidy house you can live in.
In Matthew's Gospel (excerpts from Chapter 18), Jesus teaches us how to handle personal conflict. Let's listen:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents;and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt.When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”