Anger receives a great deal of attention in mental health clinics and counseling centers all over the country. So do guilt feelings. A mother feels guilty because she screams at her children. A young man feels guilty because he no longer adheres to the behavioral standards by which he was reared. Another youth has been involved very intimately with a girl and feels guilty but cannot seem to help himself.
Another malady that plagues many people is fear. Some psychologists maintain that the causes of anger and the causes of fear are identical. In the case of anger, something has already happened. In the case of fear, there is the prospect that something will happen. This view makes these Bible verses come alive: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18)
These are emotions that are in us. Once we accept the fact that the wrath or fear or guilt is in us, we can deal with it. And that is the good news for everyone filled with anger and malice and bitterness. The people in your life may never change their ways.
Circumstances may be beyond your control. But fortunately you can do something about yourself. You can open your heart to God, who is able to fill it with bountiful grace. But whether you allow God to give you His grace is your decision.
Strangely, most persons who seek counsel will argue that they have the right to be angry. “Under my circumstances, can you blame me?” they will say in stout defense. Of course they have the right to be angry, but as long as they argue in defense of their wrath, they will see no need nor have any desire to change and thus be delivered from the unhappiness of anger.
But to say, “I am like that,” is going only halfway. Admission leads nowhere unless it implies a desire to change. It must mean that the mother sincerely wants help with her temper and the young people with their conduct, and that they turn to God for help.
How precise 1 John 1:9 is on this point: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The person who confesses this way–having faith that God is able and willing to help them and having a desire for God’s help–is well on the way to peace. The person who admits, “I’m like that,” but does nothing about changing, will not find genuine inner peace. Nor will the person who denies responsibility for the wrong they know they have done.
Most people cause their own misery. Their guilt is not imaginary, but real. An inward look and a backward look can give the reasons and point the way to peace of mind. Yet such self-views are not easy to achieve. We tend to flee from the truth about ourselves: “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
When an individual discovers hatred in their heart, they usually find other disorders as well. Their personality may resemble an iceberg. Perhaps only jealousy shows, or envy, or temper. But submerged are other disastrous emotions that deny them peace. And one emotion can hardly be dealt with singly; every emotion must be exposed to the light.
This is an excerpt of chapter 4 from Dr. Brandt’s book, The Struggle for Inner Peace, currently available as an e-book.