My six-year-old son, Dorian, struggles to get along with a boy in his kindergarten class. This particular boy apparently feels the need to say negative things about everything Dorian says and does. Things have gotten physical between them. As Dorian was telling me about such an incident he said this, “Then he pushed me, and I pushed him back. Because, you know Mom, the Bible says ‘treat others how you want to be treated’. So he must have wanted me to push him, you know, since he pushed me.”

Uhm… nope.

Our lives are full of people who are difficult to love. The pain and anger we feel when someone hurts us, or someone we care about, is valid. The trick is making sure we don’t use that pain to justify hurting them back. In Ephesians 4:26 we learn, “In your anger do not sin.” It’s not anger that is the problem, it’s what we choose to do when we are angry that makes the difference. So how do we set ourselves up to choose love even when we’re hurt and angry?

Anger is born out of hurt. Anger provides the energy and motivation to change what needs to change in order to end, or prevent, the hurt. When we realize we’re angry we can ask, “what hurts?” then, “what steps can I take to resolve this instead of adding more pain to myself and others?” Because, ultimately, giving anger the reins causes us more pain than it resolves. One of the best ways to resolve the anger is to validate the pain by saying it out loud. Once anger has done its job (moving you to address the pain) it will dissipate and leave you with a clearer mind.

After Dorian and I talked about what Jesus really meant in the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12), we practiced how he can respond to this boy next time by saying his hurt and anger. “That hurt my body and my feelings. You are not allowed to push me.” “Your mean words hurt me and they do not obey God. Please stop.”

Once the heat of anger has passed, we can choose to show the love of God to the other person through compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness (Col. 3:12-14). This is how we would like others to treat us when we hurt them. This is how we begin to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). This is the first step to move toward healing in our hearts and our relationships.