Once upon a time, I told someone the truth as I saw it. Not on a whim, but with months of prayer and soul-searching beforehand. I was wrong.
I thought God was guiding me to speak up and bring truth to a situation, but when I did, it was like scales fell from my eyes and I realized, I had not been able to see! I had been wrong. I was praying wrong, listening wrong and thought wrongly about my responsibility in the matter.
I destroyed a relationship that I valued, because I was wrong.
There isn’t a happy ending to this story. I confessed my wrongness, asked forgiveness and tried to reconcile. I was forgiven, but my action had changed the relationship. Our friendship ended.
In this world, I accept (though I grieve) my action had a consequence that is out of my control. My action harmed another. I caused pain and deep hurt.
What can we do when we know that someone is mad at us?*
Respond with humility.
Hubris demands others change. Humility demands I adapt.
When someone is mad at me, first, I reflect that I probably deserved their anger. I understand that this is not the case in every situation where people are hurt by me. Sometimes, I am misunderstood and I don’t deserve an angry response. In the case of people closest to me, I know that even my most benign responses can bring irritation, because little habits can be annoying. I try to understand how my habits in communication can cause ire in those I love and try to change, or at least understand their reactions. But in many cases, even though I know I don’t CAUSE anger (it is something that is under the control of the person who feels it), I can spark it. My words or actions, or lack of actions have contributed to the emotional response in another.
I should aim for a humble spirit that understands I hurt and annoy people. In life, people will react badly to something I’ve done, deserved or not. How do I respond when someone is mad at me? In anger? In self-righteous denials? In seeing every way they have acted wrongly? Or do I seek to understand their point of view, setting aside my own need to explain?
I recognize that sometimes, my actions will cause people to not like me very much. I can understand that. In the case I referred to at the beginning of this article, accepting my wrongness has humbled me deeply, and I use it to resist my ever-present urge to think I’m infallible. I’m not. I’ve screwed up before and I will again.
When someone is mad at me, humility helps me know they might have a good reason.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)
When someone is mad at me, secondly, I try to reflect on what I did from their point of view. This requires objectivity.
A man I once knew taught me how to be objective with my life. He asked very pointed questions, which at the time, hurt me. “Kay, do you think your parents did a good job of raising you?” he asked when I reacted to a problem with a tantrum. He wasn’t teaching me that THEY screwed me up, but that once I viewed myself from the outside, I could see better to solve the problem. I learned to set my own point of view aside.
I’m going to twist Atticus Finch’s famous quote around… “You can never really see a person until you consider things from his point of view…” until you climb outside your own skin and see yourself from his point of view.
Have I climbed out of my own viewpoint and understood the situation from their angle? Have I set aside my personal prejudice toward my case and opinion and considered the other person’s set of facts?
To understand where they are coming from, I have to ask questions. I have to listen to the answers without defense. “Please tell me what is going on.” “I want to hear your side of things. I promise just to listen.” “Will you help me understand where you are coming from?” “I know I’ve upset you. Will you help me understand how?” I have to set aside my point of view to objectively understand their side of things. This often leads me to confess – because somewhere in there, I’ve done something wrong.
When someone is mad at me, seeing things from their viewpoint leads me to repent.
Reflect on what can be controlled.
“If it is possible” resolve the problem with those whom you have wronged. (Romans 12:17)
Thirdly, when someone is mad at me, I reflect that I am not in control of the other person’s behavior, but I can control my own.
I have often heard Christians say, “Please pray that so and so will let go of their bitterness toward me.” Something is bitter when it tastes bad, and I think this rudimentary definition accurately describes what is happening in a relationship where one person does not want to be around another. Sometimes I just leave a bad taste in another person’s life. And there is nothing I can do to cleanse their palate. Sadly, I cannot make someone else forgive me or even like me.
The need to control others comes out in questions like “What can I do to get so and so to forgive me?” “How can I change what they think of me?” “What can I do to make them like me again?” The focus is upon me and my forgiveness and getting them to do what I want. However, even God is not in control of the other person’s behavior. Yes, God is in control, but He has built free will into the cells of the universe. Sometimes, you cannot make things right for the other person, no matter how hard you try.
The Message words Romans 12:17 like this. “If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” But it is not always possible to get along with some people, is it? So, the chapter goes on to explain what you can do with people who do not get along with you. You focus on how you behave towards them. Return good for the bad. We help our enemies. We refuse to condemn them with words and actions. Continue to pray for their welfare. Sometimes, just giving them space is a loving action we can do.
When someone gets mad at me, I am reminded of how little I actually control in this life, and yet I can control the most vital thing – myself.
Humility, objectivity, and self-control are three things that you can practice when someone is mad at you.
What else would you add to that list? Leave a comment or share your thoughts on Twitter.
Humility, objectivity, and self-control are three things that you can practice when someone is mad at you.Tweet
*Warning: Some people are very broken and so self-oriented, their anger is used as a tool to get their way and bring harm to others. I am not referring to abusive anger in this article, but natural reactions to everyday problems and hurts. If you are dealing with an abusive person, no amount of self-reflection will change your situation. You are dealing with evil, and that is a different beast. You would be best to avoid this person (Prov. 22:24). Great resource here: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/faq/