When Ann and I first went to counseling we talked about forgiveness with the counselor. He mentioned that many Christians don't really deal with things straight up. But they want to appear spiritual. So to give the appearance of being spiritual they 'forgive and deny the pain'. Their anger stays buried alive.
Here are three common, though indirect means of expressing anger in church circles.
The Stuffer - This person wants the world to appear good and smooth even if everything says there is chaos. This is like the Black Knight in Monty Python's In Search of the Holy Grail. The Black Knight cries, "It's only a flesh wound," even after several of his limbs have been chopped off.
The stuffer wants to show that he can take anything. He's like Superman and John Wayne combined.
However, this 'strong' behavior is actually a weakness. It is weak because it is avoidant behavior that refuses to deal with the pain and anger in the relationship. It is true there are times when you can't just let it all out (for the kid's sake, etc.). If this is the only response the emotional jack is removed from the plug and this person is disconnected from his/her heart.
Suppressing or stuffing emotions is harmful to our souls. It can lead to depression, physical illnesses and/or feed addictions. Depression is sometimes referred to as anger turned inward. Stuffers are like that in keeping the anger in.
There is a story in Les Carter's Broken Vows. A man's wife abruptly announced she was having an affair and is divorcing him. The husband showed no feelings of hurt, probably afraid that he might appear weak or needy. When a friend asked how he was handling his adjustments, he shrugged and stated, "These things happen. You just learn to move on." When his adult sons expressed strong sadness over the loss of their mother, he derided them for being too sensitive. About eight months after his wife's announcement, this same man was in the Doctor's office with ulcers, unstable blood pressure and erratic sleep. He eventually was able to admit the incredible pain and rejection he felt.
Anger and pain are going to come out some way some how. Stuffing it is a weak response not a strong one.
The Insta-Forgiver - Ann and I have observed this one with those who feel pressured to forgive right now because that is what good Christians do. This person wants to get over it and stop the incredible hurt soon. Hurting and anger are socially unacceptable. Quick forgiveness is often applauded in Christian circles without taking stock of the entire situation. Emotional honesty is shamed. She's just so emotional is a term of derision rather than a straight up acknowledgement of how God made our souls.
Denial of the intensity of the betrayal, pain and wounds often is done in an attempt to look like a super-sprititual Christian who is full of grace. Grace is gooooood. Denial is baaaaaaad.
Because emotions are shamed we lie and pretend about forgiveness. To respond in any other way is deemed childish, selfish and unspiritual.
The Martyr - This is an attitude as much as a way of dealing with anger. Control and codependency are evident. The situation is controlled by the attitude. The codependency is evident in the martyr by staying in 'this awful situation'. 'I'll suffer through it.' The relationship is enmeshed without a mutual giving and receiving of love. 'He's just a man...' is expressed matter-of-factly so pain and disappointment don't need to be felt when someone let's the martyr down.
See yourself anywhere in these?