What is a healthy way of expressing anger?

A good way to start is by asking this question to yourself: “How will my specific way of expressing anger affect the other person(s) who are present when I express it?”  In other words, your expression has an effect not only on you but on others.  If you keep this in mind, your expression of that anger may be more temperate and thus not emotionally injure those who are present.

For additional information, see What Is Forgiveness?

Politics are coming between my partner and me.  We have very different views.  I tell him, over and over, that I respect him as a person even though I disagree with his political positions.  It is not working.  He is angry with me for not seeing the world his way.  Help!  What do I do?

You can start by forgiving your partner for insisting that you change your political views.  This will not suffice to quell the conflict.  Once you forgive, and your exasperation lessens, try to have a heart-to-heart talk.  Be honest, and gentle, as you communicate your frustration with his insistence.  Try to reach reconciliation by talking out specific ways in which both of you can respect each other as persons even with political differences.  It will take time and effort, but may work.

For additional information, see Forgiveness for Couples.

I have been engaging in relaxation training to overcome my anger toward a family member.  It seems to be working, but at times my anger wells up and makes me uncomfortable.  My question is this: Is relaxation training sufficient or not to overcoming anger?

Relaxation training may be sufficient if the injustice you experienced is not severe.  If, on the other hand, it was a severe injustice, then relaxation by itself may only quell symptoms and not be a cure for your resentment.  Resentment, or deep and abiding anger, is not necessarily cured by relaxing because, once you are finished relaxing, the anger can return.  When you forgive, the resentment can be cured.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.

I am growing impatient.  I have asked my partner for forgiveness and it is not forthcoming.  I have been waiting for weeks.  Do you have some advice for me?

The advice I can give at this point is patience.  Forgiving is the other person’s decision and that person may need more time.  Also, the person may not be convinced of your apology.  Have you done what you can to make up for the injustice?  This may help lower the other’s anger and lead to forgiveness for you.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

Syrian children have watched their parents die or have assisted in carrying out their parents’ bodies.  What would you advise for these children?

We first have to realize that forgiveness belongs to those who rationally conclude that they have been wronged.  Even if others say, “You have no right to forgive because there is no injustice here,” this does not mean that the children now are frozen in their decisions to forgive.  Some, perhaps the majority, of children who have such a traumatic experience, may develop severe resentment.  This resentment could destroy their lives in the future, even in the distant future because the damaging effects of resentment may not be manifested for years.  So, if there is the poison of resentment and if the children, as they grow up, decide to forgive, they should do so.  A question is whether they are able to identify specific people to forgive or whether they will end up forgiving a system and which system that will be.

For additional information, see Healing Hearts, Building Peace.

Is it ok to engage in escapism rather than the hard road of forgiveness when I have emotional pain because of another’s unfairness?

Temporary escapism is reasonable.  It is similar to the psychological defense of denial.  Psychological defenses in the short-run are good because they keep us from severe anger or anxiety.  In the long-run, if all we do is use denial or escapism, then this is not allowing us to deal with the heart of the problem, which is to heal from what happened.  As an analogy, if you have torn muscle tissue in your knee, and this requires surgery, you are not healing the knee by denying the extent of your injury.  To forgive is to face the reality of deeply unfair treatment, the dangers of resentment, and your need of healing.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

How can I say, “I forgive you” to a system that has oppressed my people for a long time.  I am a “person of color” and it is my understanding that to forgive involves a concrete, flesh-and-blood other person.  This is not the case with a system.

You are correct that you are unable to say directly to a system, “I forgive you.”  It sometimes is the same with concrete, “flesh and blood” other people.  For example, you can forgive from your heart without words to a person who abandons you, whom you now cannot see.  When you forgive a system it can be from the heart and from the actions you take toward that system.  After all, systems are made up of people and people create norms that can be hurtful to some groups in that system.  So, you are able to forgive the system if this is your choice.  It is more abstract than forgiving one concrete, “flesh and blood” other person, but you can extend kindness and generosity to  the unseen others who established and continue with unfair norms.  Of course, this does not mean that you give up the quest for justice.  Forgiveness and justice exist side by side.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.