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Understanding Three Sources of Anger (and why the source matters) [Episode 180]

Understanding Three Sources of Anger (and why the source matters)

Hi. This is Natalie Hoffman of Flyingfreenow.com, and you’re listening to the Flying Free Podcast, a support resource for women of faith looking for hope and healing from hidden emotional and spiritual abuse.

NATALIE: Welcome to Episode 180 of the Flying Free Podcast. Today, I want to share some of my thoughts about anger. I think anger gets a bad rap sometimes. Like, it’s the emotion that’s always bad, and if you feel anger in your body, then you must be a bad person. But I think anger has three different sources or roots. One type of anger has a root of love, believe it or not. This is what I believe, and I think the Bible talks about this. The second type of anger has a root of hate, and then a third type of anger comes from the root of pain. And these three different types of anger from these three different sources create three very different results for us and for the people around us.

Now in general, in all types of anger, we feel that anger in our bodies (because it’s an emotion) when we have a thought or a belief that something or someone should be different from what it is. So anger that has the root of love believes that things should be different so the world can be a better place for everyone. Anger that has the root of hate believes that “Things should be different so I can have what I want when I want it, and anyone in the way of my agenda to serve myself must be annihilated.” Anger with the root of pain believes things should be different so the pain will go away.

Before I get into these three different sources or roots of anger, I just want to point out that anger does not come from our circumstances. Emotions or feelings in our body don’t come from what’s happening outside of us. Emotions come from what we make our circumstances mean. Now this is really good news, because it means that we have more control over how we feel than we might have originally thought. We have more power over our lives than we may realize, and if you want to learn more about how this works or if your brain is going, “No, that’s not true,” see Episode 160. It’s called “An Emotional Recovery Tool that Changes Everything,” and I’ll explain to you how that works in more detail. 

But let me just give you a few examples to help you see how this idea that circumstances or the things outside of us don’t cause our emotion of anger — thoughts do. For example, if a child spills milk for the third time that morning, we might have a thought that goes something like this: “This shouldn’t be happening. My child should be more careful. I don’t have time for this today.” And it’s those thoughts that create this emotional vibration of anger in our body. If we change it though, the situation, so that we’re in a food fight… Honestly, this is a really bad analogy, because I can’t imagine this. But let’s say that we’re at a party where part of the party is to have a food fight and spill milk and macaroni and cheese everywhere. So if our child is spilling milk in that situation, are we feeling angry now? The same thing is happening — milk is being spilled — but we’re not feeling angry because we are making the spilled milk mean something totally different. Our thoughts are like, “Yes, my child should be doing this right now. Yes, we have time for this. This is what this party is all about.” 

That was a bad example. Maybe this one will be better. Let’s say that someone pulls out in front of us on the road and we have to slam on our brakes to avoid hitting them. We might have thoughts like, “This should not be happening. This person should know better. This person is a jerk. I don’t have time for this today,” and those thoughts create this emotional vibration of anger in our body. But now let’s say that the person who pulled out is a fifteen-year-old learning how to drive, and we know this. Maybe we recognize that it’s our nephew or our niece or our own child with his grandpa. Now are we feeling angry? No, because in our minds, we are having thoughts that make that incident mean something totally different. So same circumstance — someone pulling out in front of us — but a different feeling in our bodies because of what we’re making it mean. 

Here’s another example. Let’s say that we wake up on the day of our trip to the Cayman Islands, and we are from Canada, and our car breaks down on the way to the airport and we don’t make it to the airport in time. And we have thoughts like, “This shouldn’t be happening. This is so unfair. We never get to go anywhere, and now this. Our trip is ruined. Life sucks. God is nowhere,” and those thoughts are going to create the emotional vibration of anger in our body. But let’s say that we find out that the plane crashed and we weren’t on it. Now do we have feelings of anger or like, “God is nowhere”? Do you see how this works? What we make things mean is what creates our emotions. 

One more example. Let’s say our husband says he’s going to take the kids to the beach, and then he gets home from work and says, “I’m too tired. I just want to stay home,” and now the kids are screaming because they’ve been looking forward to it all day. And your thought is, “This should not be happening. This was supposed to be my night off. I never get a break. I hate him. These kids are driving me crazy. Now I have to take them to the beach,” and those thoughts create this emotional vibration of anger in our body. But let’s change it a little bit and say that our husband comes home and he’s throwing up in the toilet, and he obviously can’t take them. Same situation — he’s not going to be able to take the kids — but we might have different thoughts about the situation, and those thoughts might not create a feeling of anger. Same circumstance —  we’re not going to get a break that night — but we don’t feel angry about it because we’re making it mean something different.

It’s important to understand that while most of our thoughts are just knee jerk, default thoughts that we’ve had since we were kids, and a lot of them are programmed into us — they come automatically — once we’re aware of our thoughts, that’s when we actually get to choose whether or not we want to keep them. And there isn’t a right or wrong about our thoughts. They’re just thoughts, and we might want to keep most of them. But just to be aware that we do have a choice. We can keep our thoughts, or we can tweak them a little bit. Just knowing that we have a choice in the matter gives us back some of our power. 

For example, if my ex does something stinky to one of our kids and they come home and tell me about it, I am going to have thoughts that create anger inside of me, thoughts like, “Dads shouldn’t do things like that. He’s being selfish. He’s not telling the truth.” And these thoughts are going to create anger inside of me. Now, I may want to keep those thoughts and that feeling of anger if it drives behavior in my life that ends up serving me and my kids. For example, when I’m angry because I’m thinking, “That was abusive behavior, and dads shouldn’t be abusive because it hurts children,” I actually want to keep that belief. I’m going to keep believing that. I’m going to keep that feeling of anger, especially if it might drive me to research ways I can help my kids process that abuse. Maybe go looking for a good book. I might want to keep that belief and that feeling of anger if it drives me to stand up for my kids in a productive way or get some help for them. 

I don’t want to gaslight myself and think the thought, just to make myself feel better, “Dads can be abusive. It’s okay,” or “He wasn’t really being abusive. Everything’s alright. I’m sure he meant well.” I’m not going to do that. I mean, I could do that, and it would make me feel better, but I don’t really think that’s helpful to me or my kids, so I don’t choose to do that. But you could. It’s optional. I’m not saying there’s a right or a wrong here. I’m just trying to show you the cause and effect of our thoughts on our feelings. 

Let’s get back to talking about the three different kinds of roots I think the emotion of anger stems from. This is just my theory, okay, so take it or leave it. I hope it’s helpful to somebody. The root of love, the root of hate, the root of pain. So we’re going to start talking about anger that comes from the root of love. Anger that comes from a root of love comes from a thought that says, “Things should be different so that the world can be a better place for everyone.” 

Let me give you some examples of this kind of anger. Let’s say your nine-year-old son is at home with dad, and he calls you in the middle of the night (you’d have to be separated or divorced for this to happen, but just bear with me) because he’s sick. But dad is sleeping with his door locked, and your son has nobody to help him. Your anger might come from some version of the thought, “Dads should be there to love their children when they’re sick.”

Second example: When your husband calls your daughter a “child of Satan,” your anger comes from some version of the thought, “Parents should not call their children destructive names or give them destructive identities. Another example: When one of your dearest friends won’t let her daughter play with yours anymore because you filed for divorce, you might feel angry because you’re thinking the thought, “Friends should support and love one another through the hard times as well as the good times.”

Here’s another example: When your ex-husband doesn’t put the three-year-old to bed, and your other kids find the child sleeping on the floor at the top of the stairs with a clean diaper in his hand waiting for what will never come: a daddy to come change his diaper and put him to bed. You might feel some anger in your body that comes from some version of the thought, “Three-year-old boys deserve to have parents who care for their needs.”

So what do we do with this kind of anger? Do we try to make it go away? Do we ignore it? Do we pretend it isn’t there? Do we try to think happy thoughts? Or what if we just accepted that this kind of anger is an emotion that we want to welcome into our repertoire of human emotions? I mean, I want to feel angry when I think about injustice, racism, misogyny, abuse, and all the ways that people are hurt. Because I believe that that kind of anger can be a very powerful force that drives me to show up on this podcast week after week and create content for women and interact with women in my private forum every day and write books and teach classes. 

The root of that kind of anger, I believe, is love. Love for what could be. Love for what is true and good and kind and life-giving. If I’m going to be apathetic about all of those things, I think wherever you see apathy about this kind of stuff, you’re just seeing a vacuum in which love does not exist. Apathy is not a form of love, more of a lame kind of love. Apathy is actually the opposite of love. This anger that I’m talking about that stems from love, I think is the anger that the Bible talks about that God feels when He sees His people, His creation, being hurt. This is the kind of anger that I believe drove Jesus to overturn tables or to call Pharisees bad names or to tell tongue-in-cheek stories that condemned the religious people of His day. 

I think this is one of the two kinds of anger that Christian wives who are victims of emotional and spiritual abuse have. What they truly want is to have deep connection with their husband and their children. What they really want is to co-create a safe and loving space for their children to grow up in and thrive and develop and learn. They want to contribute to the well-being of the world through their marriage and their family and the work that they do and the good that they bring into the world that way. And what’s standing in the way of that? A husband who has a different kind of anger: an anger that comes from hate, which we’re going to get to in a minute. 

Here’s the freaking crazy thing about all of this. In our religious environments, anger is viewed as this blatantly terrible emotion, period. Rather than understanding what anger is, where it stems from, why some anger can drive amazing change in the world, while other kinds of anger bring destruction, instead of understanding all of that, they just blindly and foolishly and ignorantly make the same blanket judgements about all of anger, believing that they are keeping the law of God. And yet they miss the spirit of that law, which recognizes with wisdom the nuances of anger and the power of anger to do good as well as evil. 

But here’s the clincher: The anger that stems from hate often hides like a wolf seeking prey. It waits to devour its victim, while the anger that stems from love or pain is very out in the open. It’s much more honest and forthcoming. So the church is going to see this kind of anger that comes from love or from pain, and because the church doesn’t understand anger, it’s going to condemn that anger that is showing up and that’s out there and it’s honesty, it’s vulnerability. And it’s going to miss the anger that hides and destroys — the anger that comes from the root of hate. 

So let’s talk about that second kind of anger — anger that has a root of hate. This kind of anger believes that “Things should be different so I can have what I want when I want it, and anyone who stands in the way of my agenda to serve me must be annihilated.” 

Here are some examples of this kind of anger. When someone posts a comment on someone else’s Facebook page that is accusatory and personally denigrates that person because maybe she voted for a different candidate or made a different decision about something that the other person doesn’t think she should have done. The thought behind that kind of anger is some version of, “This other person has no right to exist with her opinion. She is a bad person who must be verbally annihilated if she does not agree with my universe.” 

Here’s another example. When a customer calls a person from Target, that store. I don’t know if you have Target where you’re at, but we have Target and we have Walmart where I live. So let’s say a person comes into Target and wants to return something that she bought at Walmart. And the worker at Target says, “Well, you can’t do that.” And so the customer says, “Well, you’re just a fat hog,” and she’s very, very angry. This is a real life example. It didn’t happen to me — it happened to a friend of mine. The thought behind this kind of anger is some version of, “If I wanna return something that I bought at Walmart to Target, I should be able to do this, and anyone who stands in my way should be verbally annihilated for not agreeing with my universe.” 

Here’s another example. Let’s say that a man pulls out in front of someone — so first of all, the other person has to slam on their brakes because this guy just pulled out in front of her — and then he comes to a stop sign, gets on his phone, and doesn’t move. So the woman behind him gives a little honk to indicate that she is waiting. And the man gets out of his car and comes back to rage at the woman through the window, terrifying her. Where is his anger coming from? It’s coming from some version of the thought, “How dare this woman think she has any rights in my universe? If I want to pull out in front of her and then stop my car and not let her pass, she should accept that this is the way it goes in my universe. I call the shots, not her. She should be annihilated for not agreeing with my universe.” 

Here’s a fourth example. Let’s say a sister calls her sister a bitch and cuts her off from the family because she got a divorce. Her anger comes from some version of the thought, “How dare my sister get a divorce? That’s not what we do in my universe, and she must be annihilated for not obeying the rules of my universe.” Or let’s say a husband refuses to give his wife money to go to the doctor. His anger comes from some version of the thought, “My money belongs to me in my universe, and how dare my wife think she can just take my money for herself? She must be annihilated for not being healthy in my universe, as a good wife should be at all times.”

Alright, so we see that the kind of anger that stems from hate comes from some version of the thought, “Everyone should cooperate with the rules of my universe and give me what I want when I want it, and do it with a cheerful heart.” And when the world doesn’t cooperate, which it rarely does, the hatred for everyone and everything comes spewing out. This anger, which stems from hate, is the anger of the devil. It’s the idea that “I am god, and my universe is the only one that matters.” 

The Bible says in 1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” I believe this verse is saying everyone who hates his brother or sister and has this kind of anger that stems from hate is like someone who takes away the life or the identity of that person. That’s why I kept saying, “She must be annihilated/he must be annihilated.” They are trying to annihilate the identity of that other person. They are stealing it — taking it away from that person, trying to pull out the rug from under them. 

People like this that do that; the Bible is saying that they don’t have eternal life residing in them. That doesn’t mean they don’t have heaven living in them. A lot of Christians interpret that to mean “heaven.” “Eternal life is heaven.” No. That’s not what that means. That means that they don’t have the essence of God the Creator, who is also the essence of love, eternity — love never-ending, never stopping, no beginning, no end. They don’t have that essence living inside of them, and that is why they have all this hate. You can’t have both of those things living inside of you. Have you ever felt that kind of hatred from people? You know that in their heart, they would be glad if you no longer existed. It feels diabolical, doesn’t it? Because it is. It is devoid of God. It is the absence of all that God is. It is the absence of love. 

Now, survivors are often accused of having this kind of anger. In fact, this kind of anger actually projects its venom on the abuse target and accuses her of having an anger that stems from hatred. I’ve been accused of being an angry person. People used to tell me that all the time, and now I still hear it once in a while. I just think it’s so interesting. They’re projecting their own hatred onto me. It’s fascinating. I wanted to do this episode for you if you’ve experienced this as well so that you can understand that if you do feel anger… Which, you’d have to be dead not to have that emotion, alright? It’s not necessarily bad or from a root of hate. It is far more likely to be the normal, healthy, human anger that comes either from love, a root of love, or a root of pain, which we’re going to talk about in a second. But the one who’s accusing you is most likely fueled by anger that is coming from a place of hate. 

Alright. So now I want to talk about the kind of anger that comes from a root of pain. Abuse survivors are very familiar with this kind of anger as well. When I think of the times that I have felt anger that stems from pain, it’s been because I’ve had painful thoughts about situations where I am annihilated in some way by someone who has an anger that comes from hate. Either I’m being ignored, maybe by someone giving me the silent treatment because they’re angry at me that I didn’t come through for them in some way or do what they wanted when they wanted it, or maybe when I’ve used my voice or spoken up, it’s criticized or it’s minimized. Or maybe someone has labeled me with an identity like “bitch” or something like that that does not reflect who I really am, or maybe someone has cut me off in traffic, and then I think that I’m invisible or I don’t matter. Or maybe someone important to me forgets my birthday or doesn’t invite me to their wedding or tells lies about me behind my back or plans vacations that do not include me. Do you see the annihilation theme in here where you feel that you’re not seen, you’re not heard, you don’t have any value, you don’t have any worth, you are a non-person? Or maybe they have a meeting about me behind my back and then take a vote to have me disappear from their presence. 

Have I felt pain in those situations? You better believe it. The pain is deep and profound. And the rage that bubbles up from that pain has been huge and hot. But just know that even though you’ve got this rage above, underneath that rage is this intense pain of feeling annihilated, made to not exist, made to be worthless and a non-person without any meaning. This kind of pain comes from some version of the thought in our brain that says, “They should see me and know me and understand me. I am here. I am alive. They are murdering me,” or the thought, “I need to be loved and heard, and I am not.” The pain that these thoughts cause is dark and deep inside of my gut, but the rage that I feel is the stuff that I feel on the surface. The rage has movement and power, and it makes me feel something. 

You know what, you guys? We desperately need to feel alive when we are being murdered and annihilated. So this kind of anger is actually protective of our personhood, and it rises up like a warrior. Now some of us are more overt with our warrior anger. We may yell or even curse in our anger. And some of us, because of our personalities, we are quieter in our anger. It stews deep inside of us. We might let it out in passive-aggressive ways. Or maybe we vent our anger on ourselves by beating ourselves up inside and sabotaging our own lives as a way of getting back at the universe for all the pain. These are the ways this kind of anger can cause us harm, so we want to be aware of it when it shows up and then ask ourselves, “What am I thinking or believing in this moment to cause this pain inside that then triggers the energy of our protective anger?” 

Here’s what I want to teach those of you survivors who have this kind of anger that comes from love or who have this kind of anger that comes from pain or, and most likely, the anger that comes from both of those. The anger that comes from our love, I think we might want to keep that kind of anger. I think it serves us and our world in powerful ways. At least, it has the potential to. If it is channeled in the right ways and in the right directions, I think it drives change for the better in the world around us and in our own lives. 

But what about the anger that comes from pain? I think that what we wanna do with that (and you may need to do this with a therapist), but I think what we want to do with that is actually keep the pain, get down underneath that anger and get into that pain, and to embrace it, to move toward that pain instead of away from that pain so that we can actually process through it. Now that’s another topic for another time, but when we do that, then we work on letting go of the anger. 

Because that anger comes from believing the thought that others should not not give us that pain, and we should not have to experience pain. But that’s not true. That’s actually fighting reality. Because the fact is, there will always be people in the world who don’t like us or that even hate us or that want to annihilate us. We will continue to be hurt by them because we’re having thoughts about that. We can’t change the fact that there are wicked people in this world that believe that we all exist to serve them and their universe. And when we fight that reality and resist that reality, we then create dirty pain. And that dirty pain foments more hate and fear and shame in our own lives, and it just hurts us even more. 

I want to tell you a story that hopefully will give you a different path forward when you are experiencing anger that’s rooted in deep pain. I had the most disturbing dream several years ago while I was still married to my ex-husband. And in this dream, my mom and my two younger sisters told me that they had a surprise for me. And they invited me to go with them on a surprise trip. And I was thrilled. I love surprises so much, and I wanted so badly to be part of this inner circle of my family of origin. I had always kind of felt like the odd ball out, but this was like a dream come true. They had planned something just for me? Like, in advance they were thinking about me and what I would love, and they planned something for me?! They loved me like that? 

I happily got into the car and we drove to a football stadium. It was nighttime. Everything was dark. There were no lights on, and I assumed that the football stadium was empty. They walked me to the center of the field, and I remember feeling confused in that moment, like I wasn’t sure how this was going to be a surprise or a good surprise, and I started developing a sick feeling in my stomach. But my brain was not catching up with my body. My brain was still kind of reassuring me that this was going to be a lovely surprise, and it must be even a bigger surprise, because I wouldn’t expect a surprise here. And also, this was my mom and my sisters for crying out loud. I mean, of all people, I could trust them, right? 

But then I felt them stepping away from me and leaving me in the center of the field by myself. And suddenly the stadium lights all turned on, flooding the entire stadium with this blinding brightness. And I could see now that I was the only one in the middle of the field, but that filling the stadium seats all around me were thousands of people. In my dream (you know how dreams are weird) I could actually see their faces, and I recognized them as people I had known in grade school, junior high, high school, college, all the churches that I had been to, the neighborhoods I had grown up in, the people that I had worked with in different jobs I had had, my relatives, my friends. All these people were there. They represented everyone in my life. Do you remember the Sesame Street show — Guy Smiley? He did this show called “This is Your Life,” and people from your past would come in. That’s what it was kind of like. 

Anyway, I looked around at their faces, and they were all smiling, but their smiles were mean smiles. And I could feel the hate pouring out of their bodies directed right at me in the center of that field. I looked back in a panic to see my mom and my two sisters. I was trying to find them, and I could see them over in the corner of the field laughing at me. And then something hit me — like, an object hit me. And then I could see that more things were flying through the air at me, and I realized with horror that the surprise was that I was set up to be killed. 

Now, I woke up in that moment. My entire body was shaking. I actually have had nightmares my whole life. It’s just something that I’ve wrestled with and struggled with and have finally accepted. But this one was different. This one felt real. And I felt like I was going to have to get out of my bed and go throw up in the toilet. I was so sick. The desolate feeling in my gut was like a black abyss of pure pain. To say that I was sad would not do what I felt any justice. I really wanted to die in that moment. To not be loved by anyone, to be despised to that degree, and by my own family no less, it was a horror I could hardly wrap my brain around. 

That dream haunted me for days that turned into weeks that turned into months that turned into a couple of years. And I have never been one to believe in dreams or all this woo-woo stuff, okay? But I felt and wondered and pondered in my heart if this dream was some kind of a premonition of things to come. And that was exactly what it turned out to be. 

But before I get to that part, I want to tell you how God used a quack counselor to help me heal from the trauma of that dream while also at the same time preparing me for the trauma that I would experience when that dream actually came true. Here’s what happened: My husband and I, a couple of years later, did a private marriage intensive weekend with a local counselor who made me very uncomfortable, and he actually ended up spending about 30% of our hours during that intensive talking about his practice, his counseling practice, and his family and how amazeballs they all were. I remember him making some comment about his two daughters and how they wore stilettos and how gorgeous they were. It was weird, you guys. And since I had personally paid out of my own pocket $7,500 with money that I had made busting my butt making and selling homemade soap, I felt totally taken advantage of. 

But maybe, maybe it was worth the one good thing this man did. And that was that he had me go back into that dream — I talked about that dream because it was still haunting me — he had me go into that dream and imagine it out loud to him. So I had to close my eyes and articulate the dream to him again and go back in there and try to feel what I was feeling in my body. And when we got to the part where everyone began to throw things at me, he asked me to imagine a new ending. So instead of waking up, he asked me to stay in the dream and find Jesus in that dream. Where is Jesus in this dream? 

So I imagined the entire stadium melting away. The bright lights against the dark night sky; the jeering crowd; the loud thumps of things landing near me; the faces of my mom and my sisters laughing at me — all of that completely melted away, and I found myself instead in this quiet, open field. It wasn’t totally quiet, though. There was this soft, warm breeze blowing. I could hear the hum of insects and the little chattering of birds and small animals in the distance. And I could see someone walking toward me. It was Jesus. He was smiling. He was striding toward me with this calm confidence and joy and love all mixed together. His arms were out and I ran to Him and fell into His arms. And all I could feel was pure love. Pure belonging. Pure knowing. He knew me. I was alive, I existed, and I belonged. I wasn’t dead or invisible or unknown or hated anymore. I was alive and visible and known and loved. I was home. And that reimagining changed everything for me from that day forward. Everytime that dream would come to my mind in future days, I would immediately remember that ending and feel safe again. 

So I mentioned before and I’m going to talk about this now, that dream did come true a few years after that. The interesting thing was that my dad was never in that dream. And I didn’t know why at the time, but by the time the whole thing came true, my dad had died of cancer. He wasn’t in my dream because he was dead. But I could not have known that at the time of my dream. Also, at the time of the dream, I knew that one of my sisters had always disliked me, but the other sister and I were close. At least, that was my perception. She had helped me walk through the years of my separation with my ex-husband; she helped me walk through the divorce; she was very supportive. And I couldn’t figure out why my psyche had placed her in my dream that way. 

But several years later, about a year after my dad died, the dream came true. As I began to show up in my own skin with my own voice, those around me didn’t like it. And I didn’t fit into their universe in that way. If I wanted to fit; I had to be the person they wanted me to be. And I knew by that time I just needed to be me. Finally I had decided, done enough work, that I had decided to love a woman named Natalie — me — and allow her to exist and breathe and have a voice without shame. And since that was not allowed and I had instinctively known that my whole life, which is why I had played small, since that wasn’t allowed, I had to be annihilated by my family. I had to be excommunicated by my church. Several of my friends left me. 

That was a hot fire, and in that fire, you guys, I raged and I roared and I wept wildly with pain, and it was messy. And I decided I was never going to throw myself under the bus again. So that meant I had to be all in on everything. I had to be all in on that fire. And that flame was the purifying fire that burned the fake and the pretending and the fawning and the desperate desire to be seen and loved by all the people in the stadium. And what was left when the fire died down was just a tiny little diamond. Not anything super significant, but priceless. That was the core of who I was, and I imagined Jesus seeing me, hearing me, knowing me, and picking me up to keep me forever.

I am real, and so are you. At our core, we are precious gems made in the image of God. We cannot be annihilated — not even possible — although the enemy will lie to us and want us to believe it’s true. Your Creator made you to be eternal, and He loves you always. He can make stadiums and rocks melt away. He can transform jeering and mocking shrieks with the quiet sounds of insects floating on blades of grass. He can turn fires that rage and burn and kill into cool streams that run over your bare feet and down your parched throat. 

So what do we do with the anger that comes from this root of pain? We acknowledge that under that rage lies that pain. And we go into that pain and we feel it. We weep. We cry out. We vulnerably acknowledge that it hurts like hell to be rejected and torn to shreds and lied about and to have our identities dragged through the mud. It hurts. And that pain is part of the gift of being alive, of being human. Jesus knows that pain. He experienced the hot rage of hatred so much so that they not only psychologically tried to murder Him with words, but they actually took His life in the worst possible way. They called Him a liar and a thief and a fraud and killed Him in a humiliating way, hanging Him on a cross, naked for all to see, mocking Him while He died an excruciating death all by Himself. And He was all in, because He loved. He was the essence of love. 

I’m only beginning to understand what that kind of love is. I want it. I want it for me. And I want to be able to offer it. I’m sure that there is a lot more that we could say about anger and the role that it plays in the annihilation of people and of this world, as well as the role that it plays in our transformation and in our healing. Anger in and of itself is an emotion, and it’s neutral. But the beliefs and the philosophies and the theologies that create it are full of meaning and drive everything we do. 

If you would like to join me in exploring your own transformational journey of becoming all that God created you to be, consider joining the Flying Free Sisterhood education, coaching, and support program. It’s only $29 a month. That is the cost of a meal for two people — actually, it would probably cost more than that — at Applebee’s before the tip. And I promise the work that you will do with me and hundreds of other Christian women just like you will raise your weary head from the dust and set you free. Go to joinflyingfree.com for more information. 

And if this podcast has been life-giving to you, please consider leaving a rating and review on your podcast app so that it can increase the odds of being introduced to others who need this podcast to find some hope and healing for their journey as well. Thank you so much for listening today. And until next time, fly free. 

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What do love, hate, and pain have in common?

Believe it or not: Being super ticked off. Anger.

I’m serious as a heart attack. Anger stems from either love, hate, or pain. Which means there are some pretty legitimate and useful reasons to be mad. As well as some that are just nasty or unhelpful. 

So if you’ve been taught that anger is ungodly, wrong, or always a sign of bitterness, I suggest two things:

  1. Pull out the example of Jesus crafting a homemade whip and going mad dog in the temple. He dealt out the beatdown of the season. Ask people what they think of that anger. Was he just trying to encourage all those sleazy hawkers while flipping their tables over, tossing their money around, and driving their animals away? Maybe he should’ve prayed instead of taking his zeal to the streets?
  2. Listen to this episode. More motivation below.

The can’t-miss parts of this anger breakdown:

  • Three analogies: A very bad macaroni-and cheese analogy, a better one about road rage, and a great one about puking.
  • Three sources: An explanation of how love, hate, and pain trigger anger.
  • Three examples: Honestly, I give a buttload of examples. It’s the deal of the century. Listening = tons of free drama-filled examples. Not as squeal-worthy as Jesus giving what for, but still muy bien.
  • Three reasons: Why I WANT TO FEEL ANGRY (again, I give more than three reasons, but there’s no way I’m messing with the pattern I’ve created).
  • Why anger from love is open but anger from hate is hidden and destructive (I ruined the pattern. Dang it.).
  • My living nightmare. A dream that haunted me for years before becoming reality. 
  • Three drivers: How anger moves from a neutral emotion to meaning, and guides everything we do. (Eeeeh! We’re back to threes!)

Related Resources:

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Hi. This is Natalie Hoffman of Flyingfreenow.com, and you’re listening to the Flying Free Podcast, a support resource for women of faith looking for hope and healing from hidden emotional and spiritual abuse.

NATALIE: Welcome to Episode 180 of the Flying Free Podcast. Today, I want to share some of my thoughts about anger. I think anger gets a bad rap sometimes. Like, it’s the emotion that’s always bad, and if you feel anger in your body, then you must be a bad person. But I think anger has three different sources or roots. One type of anger has a root of love, believe it or not. This is what I believe, and I think the Bible talks about this. The second type of anger has a root of hate, and then a third type of anger comes from the root of pain. And these three different types of anger from these three different sources create three very different results for us and for the people around us.

Now in general, in all types of anger, we feel that anger in our bodies (because it’s an emotion) when we have a thought or a belief that something or someone should be different from what it is. So anger that has the root of love believes that things should be different so the world can be a better place for everyone. Anger that has the root of hate believes that “Things should be different so I can have what I want when I want it, and anyone in the way of my agenda to serve myself must be annihilated.” Anger with the root of pain believes things should be different so the pain will go away.

Before I get into these three different sources or roots of anger, I just want to point out that anger does not come from our circumstances. Emotions or feelings in our body don’t come from what’s happening outside of us. Emotions come from what we make our circumstances mean. Now this is really good news, because it means that we have more control over how we feel than we might have originally thought. We have more power over our lives than we may realize, and if you want to learn more about how this works or if your brain is going, “No, that’s not true,” see Episode 160. It’s called “An Emotional Recovery Tool that Changes Everything,” and I’ll explain to you how that works in more detail. 

But let me just give you a few examples to help you see how this idea that circumstances or the things outside of us don’t cause our emotion of anger — thoughts do. For example, if a child spills milk for the third time that morning, we might have a thought that goes something like this: “This shouldn’t be happening. My child should be more careful. I don’t have time for this today.” And it’s those thoughts that create this emotional vibration of anger in our body. If we change it though, the situation, so that we’re in a food fight… Honestly, this is a really bad analogy, because I can’t imagine this. But let’s say that we’re at a party where part of the party is to have a food fight and spill milk and macaroni and cheese everywhere. So if our child is spilling milk in that situation, are we feeling angry now? The same thing is happening — milk is being spilled — but we’re not feeling angry because we are making the spilled milk mean something totally different. Our thoughts are like, “Yes, my child should be doing this right now. Yes, we have time for this. This is what this party is all about.” 

That was a bad example. Maybe this one will be better. Let’s say that someone pulls out in front of us on the road and we have to slam on our brakes to avoid hitting them. We might have thoughts like, “This should not be happening. This person should know better. This person is a jerk. I don’t have time for this today,” and those thoughts create this emotional vibration of anger in our body. But now let’s say that the person who pulled out is a fifteen-year-old learning how to drive, and we know this. Maybe we recognize that it’s our nephew or our niece or our own child with his grandpa. Now are we feeling angry? No, because in our minds, we are having thoughts that make that incident mean something totally different. So same circumstance — someone pulling out in front of us — but a different feeling in our bodies because of what we’re making it mean. 

Here’s another example. Let’s say that we wake up on the day of our trip to the Cayman Islands, and we are from Canada, and our car breaks down on the way to the airport and we don’t make it to the airport in time. And we have thoughts like, “This shouldn’t be happening. This is so unfair. We never get to go anywhere, and now this. Our trip is ruined. Life sucks. God is nowhere,” and those thoughts are going to create the emotional vibration of anger in our body. But let’s say that we find out that the plane crashed and we weren’t on it. Now do we have feelings of anger or like, “God is nowhere”? Do you see how this works? What we make things mean is what creates our emotions. 

One more example. Let’s say our husband says he’s going to take the kids to the beach, and then he gets home from work and says, “I’m too tired. I just want to stay home,” and now the kids are screaming because they’ve been looking forward to it all day. And your thought is, “This should not be happening. This was supposed to be my night off. I never get a break. I hate him. These kids are driving me crazy. Now I have to take them to the beach,” and those thoughts create this emotional vibration of anger in our body. But let’s change it a little bit and say that our husband comes home and he’s throwing up in the toilet, and he obviously can’t take them. Same situation — he’s not going to be able to take the kids — but we might have different thoughts about the situation, and those thoughts might not create a feeling of anger. Same circumstance —  we’re not going to get a break that night — but we don’t feel angry about it because we’re making it mean something different.

It’s important to understand that while most of our thoughts are just knee jerk, default thoughts that we’ve had since we were kids, and a lot of them are programmed into us — they come automatically — once we’re aware of our thoughts, that’s when we actually get to choose whether or not we want to keep them. And there isn’t a right or wrong about our thoughts. They’re just thoughts, and we might want to keep most of them. But just to be aware that we do have a choice. We can keep our thoughts, or we can tweak them a little bit. Just knowing that we have a choice in the matter gives us back some of our power. 

For example, if my ex does something stinky to one of our kids and they come home and tell me about it, I am going to have thoughts that create anger inside of me, thoughts like, “Dads shouldn’t do things like that. He’s being selfish. He’s not telling the truth.” And these thoughts are going to create anger inside of me. Now, I may want to keep those thoughts and that feeling of anger if it drives behavior in my life that ends up serving me and my kids. For example, when I’m angry because I’m thinking, “That was abusive behavior, and dads shouldn’t be abusive because it hurts children,” I actually want to keep that belief. I’m going to keep believing that. I’m going to keep that feeling of anger, especially if it might drive me to research ways I can help my kids process that abuse. Maybe go looking for a good book. I might want to keep that belief and that feeling of anger if it drives me to stand up for my kids in a productive way or get some help for them. 

I don’t want to gaslight myself and think the thought, just to make myself feel better, “Dads can be abusive. It’s okay,” or “He wasn’t really being abusive. Everything’s alright. I’m sure he meant well.” I’m not going to do that. I mean, I could do that, and it would make me feel better, but I don’t really think that’s helpful to me or my kids, so I don’t choose to do that. But you could. It’s optional. I’m not saying there’s a right or a wrong here. I’m just trying to show you the cause and effect of our thoughts on our feelings. 

Let’s get back to talking about the three different kinds of roots I think the emotion of anger stems from. This is just my theory, okay, so take it or leave it. I hope it’s helpful to somebody. The root of love, the root of hate, the root of pain. So we’re going to start talking about anger that comes from the root of love. Anger that comes from a root of love comes from a thought that says, “Things should be different so that the world can be a better place for everyone.” 

Let me give you some examples of this kind of anger. Let’s say your nine-year-old son is at home with dad, and he calls you in the middle of the night (you’d have to be separated or divorced for this to happen, but just bear with me) because he’s sick. But dad is sleeping with his door locked, and your son has nobody to help him. Your anger might come from some version of the thought, “Dads should be there to love their children when they’re sick.”

Second example: When your husband calls your daughter a “child of Satan,” your anger comes from some version of the thought, “Parents should not call their children destructive names or give them destructive identities. Another example: When one of your dearest friends won’t let her daughter play with yours anymore because you filed for divorce, you might feel angry because you’re thinking the thought, “Friends should support and love one another through the hard times as well as the good times.”

Here’s another example: When your ex-husband doesn’t put the three-year-old to bed, and your other kids find the child sleeping on the floor at the top of the stairs with a clean diaper in his hand waiting for what will never come: a daddy to come change his diaper and put him to bed. You might feel some anger in your body that comes from some version of the thought, “Three-year-old boys deserve to have parents who care for their needs.”

So what do we do with this kind of anger? Do we try to make it go away? Do we ignore it? Do we pretend it isn’t there? Do we try to think happy thoughts? Or what if we just accepted that this kind of anger is an emotion that we want to welcome into our repertoire of human emotions? I mean, I want to feel angry when I think about injustice, racism, misogyny, abuse, and all the ways that people are hurt. Because I believe that that kind of anger can be a very powerful force that drives me to show up on this podcast week after week and create content for women and interact with women in my private forum every day and write books and teach classes. 

The root of that kind of anger, I believe, is love. Love for what could be. Love for what is true and good and kind and life-giving. If I’m going to be apathetic about all of those things, I think wherever you see apathy about this kind of stuff, you’re just seeing a vacuum in which love does not exist. Apathy is not a form of love, more of a lame kind of love. Apathy is actually the opposite of love. This anger that I’m talking about that stems from love, I think is the anger that the Bible talks about that God feels when He sees His people, His creation, being hurt. This is the kind of anger that I believe drove Jesus to overturn tables or to call Pharisees bad names or to tell tongue-in-cheek stories that condemned the religious people of His day. 

I think this is one of the two kinds of anger that Christian wives who are victims of emotional and spiritual abuse have. What they truly want is to have deep connection with their husband and their children. What they really want is to co-create a safe and loving space for their children to grow up in and thrive and develop and learn. They want to contribute to the well-being of the world through their marriage and their family and the work that they do and the good that they bring into the world that way. And what’s standing in the way of that? A husband who has a different kind of anger: an anger that comes from hate, which we’re going to get to in a minute. 

Here’s the freaking crazy thing about all of this. In our religious environments, anger is viewed as this blatantly terrible emotion, period. Rather than understanding what anger is, where it stems from, why some anger can drive amazing change in the world, while other kinds of anger bring destruction, instead of understanding all of that, they just blindly and foolishly and ignorantly make the same blanket judgements about all of anger, believing that they are keeping the law of God. And yet they miss the spirit of that law, which recognizes with wisdom the nuances of anger and the power of anger to do good as well as evil. 

But here’s the clincher: The anger that stems from hate often hides like a wolf seeking prey. It waits to devour its victim, while the anger that stems from love or pain is very out in the open. It’s much more honest and forthcoming. So the church is going to see this kind of anger that comes from love or from pain, and because the church doesn’t understand anger, it’s going to condemn that anger that is showing up and that’s out there and it’s honesty, it’s vulnerability. And it’s going to miss the anger that hides and destroys — the anger that comes from the root of hate. 

So let’s talk about that second kind of anger — anger that has a root of hate. This kind of anger believes that “Things should be different so I can have what I want when I want it, and anyone who stands in the way of my agenda to serve me must be annihilated.” 

Here are some examples of this kind of anger. When someone posts a comment on someone else’s Facebook page that is accusatory and personally denigrates that person because maybe she voted for a different candidate or made a different decision about something that the other person doesn’t think she should have done. The thought behind that kind of anger is some version of, “This other person has no right to exist with her opinion. She is a bad person who must be verbally annihilated if she does not agree with my universe.” 

Here’s another example. When a customer calls a person from Target, that store. I don’t know if you have Target where you’re at, but we have Target and we have Walmart where I live. So let’s say a person comes into Target and wants to return something that she bought at Walmart. And the worker at Target says, “Well, you can’t do that.” And so the customer says, “Well, you’re just a fat hog,” and she’s very, very angry. This is a real life example. It didn’t happen to me — it happened to a friend of mine. The thought behind this kind of anger is some version of, “If I wanna return something that I bought at Walmart to Target, I should be able to do this, and anyone who stands in my way should be verbally annihilated for not agreeing with my universe.” 

Here’s another example. Let’s say that a man pulls out in front of someone — so first of all, the other person has to slam on their brakes because this guy just pulled out in front of her — and then he comes to a stop sign, gets on his phone, and doesn’t move. So the woman behind him gives a little honk to indicate that she is waiting. And the man gets out of his car and comes back to rage at the woman through the window, terrifying her. Where is his anger coming from? It’s coming from some version of the thought, “How dare this woman think she has any rights in my universe? If I want to pull out in front of her and then stop my car and not let her pass, she should accept that this is the way it goes in my universe. I call the shots, not her. She should be annihilated for not agreeing with my universe.” 

Here’s a fourth example. Let’s say a sister calls her sister a bitch and cuts her off from the family because she got a divorce. Her anger comes from some version of the thought, “How dare my sister get a divorce? That’s not what we do in my universe, and she must be annihilated for not obeying the rules of my universe.” Or let’s say a husband refuses to give his wife money to go to the doctor. His anger comes from some version of the thought, “My money belongs to me in my universe, and how dare my wife think she can just take my money for herself? She must be annihilated for not being healthy in my universe, as a good wife should be at all times.”

Alright, so we see that the kind of anger that stems from hate comes from some version of the thought, “Everyone should cooperate with the rules of my universe and give me what I want when I want it, and do it with a cheerful heart.” And when the world doesn’t cooperate, which it rarely does, the hatred for everyone and everything comes spewing out. This anger, which stems from hate, is the anger of the devil. It’s the idea that “I am god, and my universe is the only one that matters.” 

The Bible says in 1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” I believe this verse is saying everyone who hates his brother or sister and has this kind of anger that stems from hate is like someone who takes away the life or the identity of that person. That’s why I kept saying, “She must be annihilated/he must be annihilated.” They are trying to annihilate the identity of that other person. They are stealing it — taking it away from that person, trying to pull out the rug from under them. 

People like this that do that; the Bible is saying that they don’t have eternal life residing in them. That doesn’t mean they don’t have heaven living in them. A lot of Christians interpret that to mean “heaven.” “Eternal life is heaven.” No. That’s not what that means. That means that they don’t have the essence of God the Creator, who is also the essence of love, eternity — love never-ending, never stopping, no beginning, no end. They don’t have that essence living inside of them, and that is why they have all this hate. You can’t have both of those things living inside of you. Have you ever felt that kind of hatred from people? You know that in their heart, they would be glad if you no longer existed. It feels diabolical, doesn’t it? Because it is. It is devoid of God. It is the absence of all that God is. It is the absence of love. 

Now, survivors are often accused of having this kind of anger. In fact, this kind of anger actually projects its venom on the abuse target and accuses her of having an anger that stems from hatred. I’ve been accused of being an angry person. People used to tell me that all the time, and now I still hear it once in a while. I just think it’s so interesting. They’re projecting their own hatred onto me. It’s fascinating. I wanted to do this episode for you if you’ve experienced this as well so that you can understand that if you do feel anger… Which, you’d have to be dead not to have that emotion, alright? It’s not necessarily bad or from a root of hate. It is far more likely to be the normal, healthy, human anger that comes either from love, a root of love, or a root of pain, which we’re going to talk about in a second. But the one who’s accusing you is most likely fueled by anger that is coming from a place of hate. 

Alright. So now I want to talk about the kind of anger that comes from a root of pain. Abuse survivors are very familiar with this kind of anger as well. When I think of the times that I have felt anger that stems from pain, it’s been because I’ve had painful thoughts about situations where I am annihilated in some way by someone who has an anger that comes from hate. Either I’m being ignored, maybe by someone giving me the silent treatment because they’re angry at me that I didn’t come through for them in some way or do what they wanted when they wanted it, or maybe when I’ve used my voice or spoken up, it’s criticized or it’s minimized. Or maybe someone has labeled me with an identity like “bitch” or something like that that does not reflect who I really am, or maybe someone has cut me off in traffic, and then I think that I’m invisible or I don’t matter. Or maybe someone important to me forgets my birthday or doesn’t invite me to their wedding or tells lies about me behind my back or plans vacations that do not include me. Do you see the annihilation theme in here where you feel that you’re not seen, you’re not heard, you don’t have any value, you don’t have any worth, you are a non-person? Or maybe they have a meeting about me behind my back and then take a vote to have me disappear from their presence. 

Have I felt pain in those situations? You better believe it. The pain is deep and profound. And the rage that bubbles up from that pain has been huge and hot. But just know that even though you’ve got this rage above, underneath that rage is this intense pain of feeling annihilated, made to not exist, made to be worthless and a non-person without any meaning. This kind of pain comes from some version of the thought in our brain that says, “They should see me and know me and understand me. I am here. I am alive. They are murdering me,” or the thought, “I need to be loved and heard, and I am not.” The pain that these thoughts cause is dark and deep inside of my gut, but the rage that I feel is the stuff that I feel on the surface. The rage has movement and power, and it makes me feel something. 

You know what, you guys? We desperately need to feel alive when we are being murdered and annihilated. So this kind of anger is actually protective of our personhood, and it rises up like a warrior. Now some of us are more overt with our warrior anger. We may yell or even curse in our anger. And some of us, because of our personalities, we are quieter in our anger. It stews deep inside of us. We might let it out in passive-aggressive ways. Or maybe we vent our anger on ourselves by beating ourselves up inside and sabotaging our own lives as a way of getting back at the universe for all the pain. These are the ways this kind of anger can cause us harm, so we want to be aware of it when it shows up and then ask ourselves, “What am I thinking or believing in this moment to cause this pain inside that then triggers the energy of our protective anger?” 

Here’s what I want to teach those of you survivors who have this kind of anger that comes from love or who have this kind of anger that comes from pain or, and most likely, the anger that comes from both of those. The anger that comes from our love, I think we might want to keep that kind of anger. I think it serves us and our world in powerful ways. At least, it has the potential to. If it is channeled in the right ways and in the right directions, I think it drives change for the better in the world around us and in our own lives. 

But what about the anger that comes from pain? I think that what we wanna do with that (and you may need to do this with a therapist), but I think what we want to do with that is actually keep the pain, get down underneath that anger and get into that pain, and to embrace it, to move toward that pain instead of away from that pain so that we can actually process through it. Now that’s another topic for another time, but when we do that, then we work on letting go of the anger. 

Because that anger comes from believing the thought that others should not not give us that pain, and we should not have to experience pain. But that’s not true. That’s actually fighting reality. Because the fact is, there will always be people in the world who don’t like us or that even hate us or that want to annihilate us. We will continue to be hurt by them because we’re having thoughts about that. We can’t change the fact that there are wicked people in this world that believe that we all exist to serve them and their universe. And when we fight that reality and resist that reality, we then create dirty pain. And that dirty pain foments more hate and fear and shame in our own lives, and it just hurts us even more. 

I want to tell you a story that hopefully will give you a different path forward when you are experiencing anger that’s rooted in deep pain. I had the most disturbing dream several years ago while I was still married to my ex-husband. And in this dream, my mom and my two younger sisters told me that they had a surprise for me. And they invited me to go with them on a surprise trip. And I was thrilled. I love surprises so much, and I wanted so badly to be part of this inner circle of my family of origin. I had always kind of felt like the odd ball out, but this was like a dream come true. They had planned something just for me? Like, in advance they were thinking about me and what I would love, and they planned something for me?! They loved me like that? 

I happily got into the car and we drove to a football stadium. It was nighttime. Everything was dark. There were no lights on, and I assumed that the football stadium was empty. They walked me to the center of the field, and I remember feeling confused in that moment, like I wasn’t sure how this was going to be a surprise or a good surprise, and I started developing a sick feeling in my stomach. But my brain was not catching up with my body. My brain was still kind of reassuring me that this was going to be a lovely surprise, and it must be even a bigger surprise, because I wouldn’t expect a surprise here. And also, this was my mom and my sisters for crying out loud. I mean, of all people, I could trust them, right? 

But then I felt them stepping away from me and leaving me in the center of the field by myself. And suddenly the stadium lights all turned on, flooding the entire stadium with this blinding brightness. And I could see now that I was the only one in the middle of the field, but that filling the stadium seats all around me were thousands of people. In my dream (you know how dreams are weird) I could actually see their faces, and I recognized them as people I had known in grade school, junior high, high school, college, all the churches that I had been to, the neighborhoods I had grown up in, the people that I had worked with in different jobs I had had, my relatives, my friends. All these people were there. They represented everyone in my life. Do you remember the Sesame Street show — Guy Smiley? He did this show called “This is Your Life,” and people from your past would come in. That’s what it was kind of like. 

Anyway, I looked around at their faces, and they were all smiling, but their smiles were mean smiles. And I could feel the hate pouring out of their bodies directed right at me in the center of that field. I looked back in a panic to see my mom and my two sisters. I was trying to find them, and I could see them over in the corner of the field laughing at me. And then something hit me — like, an object hit me. And then I could see that more things were flying through the air at me, and I realized with horror that the surprise was that I was set up to be killed. 

Now, I woke up in that moment. My entire body was shaking. I actually have had nightmares my whole life. It’s just something that I’ve wrestled with and struggled with and have finally accepted. But this one was different. This one felt real. And I felt like I was going to have to get out of my bed and go throw up in the toilet. I was so sick. The desolate feeling in my gut was like a black abyss of pure pain. To say that I was sad would not do what I felt any justice. I really wanted to die in that moment. To not be loved by anyone, to be despised to that degree, and by my own family no less, it was a horror I could hardly wrap my brain around. 

That dream haunted me for days that turned into weeks that turned into months that turned into a couple of years. And I have never been one to believe in dreams or all this woo-woo stuff, okay? But I felt and wondered and pondered in my heart if this dream was some kind of a premonition of things to come. And that was exactly what it turned out to be. 

But before I get to that part, I want to tell you how God used a quack counselor to help me heal from the trauma of that dream while also at the same time preparing me for the trauma that I would experience when that dream actually came true. Here’s what happened: My husband and I, a couple of years later, did a private marriage intensive weekend with a local counselor who made me very uncomfortable, and he actually ended up spending about 30% of our hours during that intensive talking about his practice, his counseling practice, and his family and how amazeballs they all were. I remember him making some comment about his two daughters and how they wore stilettos and how gorgeous they were. It was weird, you guys. And since I had personally paid out of my own pocket $7,500 with money that I had made busting my butt making and selling homemade soap, I felt totally taken advantage of. 

But maybe, maybe it was worth the one good thing this man did. And that was that he had me go back into that dream — I talked about that dream because it was still haunting me — he had me go into that dream and imagine it out loud to him. So I had to close my eyes and articulate the dream to him again and go back in there and try to feel what I was feeling in my body. And when we got to the part where everyone began to throw things at me, he asked me to imagine a new ending. So instead of waking up, he asked me to stay in the dream and find Jesus in that dream. Where is Jesus in this dream? 

So I imagined the entire stadium melting away. The bright lights against the dark night sky; the jeering crowd; the loud thumps of things landing near me; the faces of my mom and my sisters laughing at me — all of that completely melted away, and I found myself instead in this quiet, open field. It wasn’t totally quiet, though. There was this soft, warm breeze blowing. I could hear the hum of insects and the little chattering of birds and small animals in the distance. And I could see someone walking toward me. It was Jesus. He was smiling. He was striding toward me with this calm confidence and joy and love all mixed together. His arms were out and I ran to Him and fell into His arms. And all I could feel was pure love. Pure belonging. Pure knowing. He knew me. I was alive, I existed, and I belonged. I wasn’t dead or invisible or unknown or hated anymore. I was alive and visible and known and loved. I was home. And that reimagining changed everything for me from that day forward. Everytime that dream would come to my mind in future days, I would immediately remember that ending and feel safe again. 

So I mentioned before and I’m going to talk about this now, that dream did come true a few years after that. The interesting thing was that my dad was never in that dream. And I didn’t know why at the time, but by the time the whole thing came true, my dad had died of cancer. He wasn’t in my dream because he was dead. But I could not have known that at the time of my dream. Also, at the time of the dream, I knew that one of my sisters had always disliked me, but the other sister and I were close. At least, that was my perception. She had helped me walk through the years of my separation with my ex-husband; she helped me walk through the divorce; she was very supportive. And I couldn’t figure out why my psyche had placed her in my dream that way. 

But several years later, about a year after my dad died, the dream came true. As I began to show up in my own skin with my own voice, those around me didn’t like it. And I didn’t fit into their universe in that way. If I wanted to fit; I had to be the person they wanted me to be. And I knew by that time I just needed to be me. Finally I had decided, done enough work, that I had decided to love a woman named Natalie — me — and allow her to exist and breathe and have a voice without shame. And since that was not allowed and I had instinctively known that my whole life, which is why I had played small, since that wasn’t allowed, I had to be annihilated by my family. I had to be excommunicated by my church. Several of my friends left me. 

That was a hot fire, and in that fire, you guys, I raged and I roared and I wept wildly with pain, and it was messy. And I decided I was never going to throw myself under the bus again. So that meant I had to be all in on everything. I had to be all in on that fire. And that flame was the purifying fire that burned the fake and the pretending and the fawning and the desperate desire to be seen and loved by all the people in the stadium. And what was left when the fire died down was just a tiny little diamond. Not anything super significant, but priceless. That was the core of who I was, and I imagined Jesus seeing me, hearing me, knowing me, and picking me up to keep me forever.

I am real, and so are you. At our core, we are precious gems made in the image of God. We cannot be annihilated — not even possible — although the enemy will lie to us and want us to believe it’s true. Your Creator made you to be eternal, and He loves you always. He can make stadiums and rocks melt away. He can transform jeering and mocking shrieks with the quiet sounds of insects floating on blades of grass. He can turn fires that rage and burn and kill into cool streams that run over your bare feet and down your parched throat. 

So what do we do with the anger that comes from this root of pain? We acknowledge that under that rage lies that pain. And we go into that pain and we feel it. We weep. We cry out. We vulnerably acknowledge that it hurts like hell to be rejected and torn to shreds and lied about and to have our identities dragged through the mud. It hurts. And that pain is part of the gift of being alive, of being human. Jesus knows that pain. He experienced the hot rage of hatred so much so that they not only psychologically tried to murder Him with words, but they actually took His life in the worst possible way. They called Him a liar and a thief and a fraud and killed Him in a humiliating way, hanging Him on a cross, naked for all to see, mocking Him while He died an excruciating death all by Himself. And He was all in, because He loved. He was the essence of love. 

I’m only beginning to understand what that kind of love is. I want it. I want it for me. And I want to be able to offer it. I’m sure that there is a lot more that we could say about anger and the role that it plays in the annihilation of people and of this world, as well as the role that it plays in our transformation and in our healing. Anger in and of itself is an emotion, and it’s neutral. But the beliefs and the philosophies and the theologies that create it are full of meaning and drive everything we do. 

If you would like to join me in exploring your own transformational journey of becoming all that God created you to be, consider joining the Flying Free Sisterhood education, coaching, and support program. It’s only $29 a month. That is the cost of a meal for two people — actually, it would probably cost more than that — at Applebee’s before the tip. And I promise the work that you will do with me and hundreds of other Christian women just like you will raise your weary head from the dust and set you free. Go to joinflyingfree.com for more information. 

And if this podcast has been life-giving to you, please consider leaving a rating and review on your podcast app so that it can increase the odds of being introduced to others who need this podcast to find some hope and healing for their journey as well. Thank you so much for listening today. And until next time, fly free. 

"Fall of 2020 I binged on all the Flying Free episodes because I wanted to see if they'd be helpful for a friend. Spring of 2021 I was challenged to admit I myself was in a confusing and painful marriage. I joined Flying Free. The Flying Free Sisterhood has been oxygen to me the last fourteen months. Natalie's book, 'Is It Me?' helped me identify subtle abuse tactics. The top-notch resources address every possible angle and concern we members might face. Natalie, you and your program and the Sisterhood are a much-needed, much-appreciated gift, empowering a battalion of butterflies who are changing the world, one wing-whisper at a time. Much gratitude!"
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Flying Free Sisterhood

An online coaching, education, and support community for women of faith in destructive relationships.

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The Comments

  • Avatar
    Donna Dester
    July 20, 2022

    So good!!! Made me cry!!!

    • Avatar
      hesed
      → Donna Dester
      July 26, 2022

      Thank you so much. “HE KNEW ME… I WAS HOME.” That’s exactly what I have known about my relationship with God since way tiny childhood. I am the deplorable in my family, too, Natalie. I know there are many other beautiful butterflies who are, and the more who start loving themselves (as God has designed us to) and setting boundaries, the more our “club” will grow. I think we are in VERY good company! Oh, the miracles that our Creator pours out! His mercies are new every morning.