Timothy and Marcus are brothers. They’re similar in a lot of ways. But they’re different in how they relate to their anger.
When Tim gets mad, he lets himself stay mad for as long as he needs to, so long as he’s not being inappropriate toward others. When Marc gets mad, he stops the episode as soon as he can so he can skip to forgiveness instead.
How Tim relates to his anger in a healthy way
Because Tim understands that:
- His anger is a healthy signal of problems that need to be fixed
- He can express his anger in safe and appropriate ways, to find the deeper roots of the anger, and then work the root of the problems
- His anger has meaning and value, and that he needs to listen to learn from it and use it
- Once he work with his anger constructively, he can be more response able to whatever gave him case to be angry in the first place (it could be an external event or an internal belief)
After working through all these steps, Tim’s in an ideal position to learn from the incident that gave him cause for anger, so that he can do something different in his life. Something hat leads to positive long-term change.
And something that may even prevent problems that would lead to anger in the future.
How Tim benefits from relating to this anger in a healthy way
Creating positive long-term change is great for Tim. It’s something for him to be proud of and happy about. It’s like turning a cruddy situation into a golden opportunity. And all because he listened to, honored, expressed, and work with his anger.
Tim can genuinely give thanks for the invaluable learning experience, which ultimately mobilizes him to greater response ability and self awareness.
How Marc relates to his anger in an unhealthy way
Marc, who’s too afraid to feel an ounce of anger drop into his bloodstream, won’t be able to learn from the incident that gives him cause for anger, or grow from the pain.
So any type of thanks he tries to give — will be empty and forced.
What Marc misses out on
In other words, by trying to be forgiving without acknowledging his own anger first, Marc never gets to:
- Express his anger toward the wrongdoer (whether in person or private), because forgiveness means you forgo anger or other nasty thoughts — which means he can’t…
- Follow that anger back to the problems it signaled (those problems may be entirely due to his dysfunctional thinking, the other person or event/trigger, or a blend of both)
- Actually fix those problems, by using his anger as a powerful tool
- Make a conscious decision to forgive — as long as he’s not true to himself and his emotions, he can’t know what he really thinks or feels about a person or event, and thus can’t 100% forgive without harboring nasty thoughts or icky feeling just beneath the surface
Forgiveness isn’t gratitude
You can’t say “thank you” when you’re mad. And when you don’t let yourself get mad, you may stay mad subconsciously.
So you can’t forgive without emoting that anger first.
When you get angry, honor that.
Take it as personally as you can.
Why genuine gratitude is healthier than forgiveness
In order to cultivate genuine gratitude for a negative situation, you have to first process all your negative emotions about the event.
Doing that clears your mind so that you can mindfully choose to see the bright side of the story — and thank your wrongdoer for giving you the opportunity to grow. This means the negative event is no longer bad, but a stepping stone for your continual growth.
Forgiveness is all about pardoning the wrongdoer — and that wrongdoer remains bad. As long as you’re judging them, you won’t be able to look into yourself, find a lesson, and grow.
And as long as you stuff your anger, you won’t be able to learn from the incident to build upon your emotional resilience. Which helps you work with anger once it’s triggered, and indirectly prevent it from getting triggered in the first place.
So don’t even think about forgiveness… until you’ve let your temper run. And I encourage you to focus on gratitude over forgiveness any day.
Forgiveness is about how saintly you are. Gratitude is about how appreciative you are — of your wrongdoer. Which is far more compassionate and constructive, and more saintly anyway.
How about you?
Are you more like Tim, or Marc?
Do you think there’s a difference between gratitude and forgiveness?
What does genuine gratitude mean to you?