Exams are stressful. So is living with other people. I’ve come to learn that, in addition to death and taxes, fights and conflict with roommates and friends are certain. This is my fifth year living away from home (I attended boarding school for high school), my third year with at least one roommate. And, as expected, with the storm of college exams came the expected squall of fights. It’s the end of a stressful year, and things wouldn’t be complete unless we capped it off with some kind of fight about the state of things in our room, or other minor thing that, when you really think about it, is really not worth fighting about.
Despite my disgust at the absolute worthlessness of fights, and my pretty deliberate efforts to avoid them, I still manage to let myself become consumed by them. They definitely expose a weak aspect of my personality; I’ve never been one to just roll over and let it pass. And I kick myself every time I open my mouth to retaliate, knowing that I’m not representing myself or my beliefs very well whenever I end up in these situations. But for some reason I end up in the same place.
So, with the most recent bout, I’ve turned to the Bible for some help. I opened up to a passage in Ephesians 4 that has helped me to refocus my efforts on not fighting back and attempting to let this whole fight pass:
“… take on an entirely new way of life–a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry–but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life” (Ephesians 4:24-27).
I was actually a little surprised to read the “Go ahead and be angry” part. But I wonder what Paul means by that; are we supposed to be angry within ourselves, or is it okay to fight? What is appropriate anger? I’m glad that I have a right to be angry, but how do I express that anger, especially when keeping it bottled up has turned out to be detrimental to my emotional well-being?
I know my reactions so far are wrong. Though I have hesitated to actually come out and confront anyone about anything, I have definitely “let the sun set on my anger.” I’ve allowed my anger to eat away at me, and I’ve harbored some pretty negative thoughts against someone. I’ve also been guilty of gossip and of planning revenge, of glorying in that sweetness of figuring out just the right thing you can do to get back at the person who’s hurt you. I know it’s not productive, but it’s so easy to do when you’re trying to soothe an aching heart, and trying to absolve yourself of any role in the conflict.
Thank goodness I haven’t gone through with anything. But I’m still in the same place–angry and down one friend. I know the Bible tells me to love my neighbor as myself, to follow Christ’s example and love everyone to the best of my ability. And it is. so. hard. Especially when I’ve tried to do just that for, now, an entire year, and I’m just emotionally depleted.
But I know I have to keep going. It’s my obligation as a Christian to love this person: “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best… to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty” (Matt 5:43-46). I just have to keep praying, and hope God will help me quell my anger in the meantime. I’m definitely going to be praying (ardently) for God’s support… This isn’t a task that I can take on alone. I hope that God will create an opportunity for reconciliation; this is getting to be too much of an emotional burden to maintain our current silent stalemate. I’m sad that I have to say that just loving someone is such a burden, but I’m so depleted that I just don’t know what else to do.
However, I am glad for the test. Hopefully I won’t make the same mistakes that I have made so many times before. Until I can move past this, I’m going to just pray and embrace this as a learning opportunity. One day things will work out as they should.
Guess it’s time for some tough love.