Did you know that when you go to bed angry with someone, you wake up a little less in love with that person? God’s Word addresses this dangerous sleeping pattern: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Eph. 4:26, 27.
When I was in college, I was impressed by the relationship between my English literature teacher, Dr. Evangeline Banta, and her husband. She invited me to spend a weekend at her home, where I got a closer look at a love relationship that I had assumed existed only in literature. At the end of our weekend together, I asked Evangeline what the secret was of the love that had flourished after more than 40 years of marriage. I’ve never forgotten her answer, and it has been the most important marital advice I’ve ever received. Evangeline said, “We made a commitment on our wedding night that we would not go to sleep angry with one another.” Such a simple idea, but it is a foundational truth for love that will last a lifetime. Going to bed angry with one’s mate will only result in dragon’s breath come morning.
Are you having a difficult time finding a Valentine’s card for a loved one because the sun has been setting day after day on anger in your heart? One of the primary reasons many of us don’t forgive is that we’re too angry even to consider it. We may or may not be aware of the anger we live with day to day. For plenty of people, the anger that holds them hostage to unforgiveness is a rage stored deep in the attics of their hearts. I refer to this as “ancient anger.” Ancient anger is like cobwebs strung across the attics of our hearts, and these cobwebs need to be removed. Frederick Buechner wrote about ancient anger*:
“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton you feast on is you.”
Being offended is inevitable, but staying offended is our choice. Valentine cards are hard to purchase when the heart is clogged with ancient anger. We are called to forgive one another for doing what we do best – being human. Don’t go to bed angry again tonight–so you can visit a Hallmark card shop tomorrow without grinding your teeth in the process.
*Adapted from Free Yourself to Love: The Liberating Power of Forgiveness (2009) by Jackie Kendall.
Jackie Kendall is coauthor of the bestselling Lady in Waiting. She has been involved with Life for 25 years, working as a teacher, counselor, conference speaker and author. Jackie works with several athletic teams, including the Atlanta Braves and Pro Athletes Outreach. She makes her home in Royal Palm Beach, Florida.