Society conditions victims of abuse and betrayal to believe that feeling the emotion of anger is wrong. No one enjoys feeling anger. In fact, many victims feel weighed down by their anger. Or scared of it. But can legitimate anger be helpful?
Anger is a useful tool. This emotion helps women know that someone has crossed their boundaries. Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, takes a deep dive into anger and why it is healthy and appropriate for victims of abuse and betrayal. For more, read the full transcript and below and tune in to the free BTR podcast.
Legitimate Anger Tells You: You’ve Been Harmed
When women take a moment to evaluate why they are feeling angry, they are able to determine that someone is harming them.
Rather than saying, “I shouldn’t be so angry,” victims can say, “I feel angry because my partner has betrayed and abused me. My anger is helping me stay in reality.”
The truth is, anger helps victims remember that they are human beings, worthy of love and respect.
Legitimate Anger Can Be Expressed In Healthy Ways
When you experience anger from betrayal and abuse, be sure to listen to yourself and validate your emotions.
When you are ready, here are some healthy ways to process that anger:
- Go for a run
- Scream into a pillow
- Throw raw eggs at a tree (surprisingly cathartic and the little creatures get a feast)
- Knead bread dough
- Push a pen so deeply into paper that it rips the paper
Legitimate Anger Can Help You Find Safety
Victims can use anger as a catalyst to help identify safety issues.
Boundaries are not requests, statements, or ultimatums. Rather, they are courageous actions that women take to protect themselves from abusive behavior.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Abuse
The myriad of deep, gut-wrenching emotions that victims experience can feel overwhelming. Women deserve a safe place to process trauma, share their stories, and express hard feelings.
The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, meets daily in every time zone and offers victims a community of loving, understanding women to support you on your journey to healing. Join today.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. This is Anne.
So, many of you know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we study from both the Bible and The Book of Mormon. There are a bunch of war chapters in The Book of Mormon and I’m going to read some concepts from this today that have really helped me understand righteous anger and what that look like.
So, as you know the bible is the account of Jesus in Jerusalem and his dealings there. The Book of Mormon is an ancient account from about 600BC to 400AD of the people in ancient Central America. They also prophesied of Christ. So, if you’re not Christian I hope that you can glean some benefit from these scriptures. The point of this is not to proselytize it by any means. I respect all of your different views. It is to talk about a concept of anger within at least Christianity or within the general context of society of what righteous anger looks like or what healthy anger looks like.
Why Do We Misunderstand Legitimate Anger?
These scriptures I’m going to be reading to you are from Alma. Alma is a book in The Book of Mormon. Alma is a prophet, and during this time you have a very righteous captain of an army and his name is Moroni. He is saying to the unrighteous people: Hey. You either repent and stop being unrighteous and stop harming us or I’m going to kill you.
Those are the two options that Moroni gives. This is really interesting because people who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will recognize that Moroni is one of the most righteous men in the scriptures. It even states that in Alma 48:17. Is says: “Verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”
Moroni is described as an extremely faithful, extremely righteous man. He was a man of perfect understanding. It says: “A man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from the bondage of slavery. Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.” So, it says specifically in Alma 48 verse 12 the safety of his people.
Legitimate Anger Can Be Protective
Then in 13: “Yea, he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, who had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion” and verse 14: “Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies. Yea, they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.” In our situation, in our day, we’re talking about preserving our safety or wanting to preserve our safety. In trying to preserve their safety in verse 15 it says: “And this was their faith, that by doing so God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them.” So, this is talking about hope.
So, here you have Moroni. He basically in Chapter 48 verse 24 says: “Nevertheless, they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by the barbarous cruelty of those who were once their brethren and had dissented from their church and had left them.” Moroni is saying if you have been unrighteous, if you have harmed your children or your family or if you’re doing things that do not add to the safety of your families but harm them, you can not be here anymore. These are your options: You leave and leave us alone or you repent and don’t do these things anymore or I will kill you says Moroni.
Legitimate Anger Helps Us To Set Boundaries
Now, I am not in any way shape or form admonishing any of you to kill anybody. I’m just talking about what Moroni did in the past. But I am talking about how we can create boundaries for safety. As Moroni and his people create boundaries for safety in Alma Chapter 50 verse 18 it says: “And they did prosper exceedingly, and they became exceedingly rich; and they did multiply and wax strong in the land. (Verse 19) And thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words unto the children of men; yea, we can behold that his words are verified.” The Lord says to them is verse 20: “Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.”
It’s Normal To Feel Angry When You Are Betrayed & Abused
Now, this is a really difficult scripture I think for victims in our situation because when we recognize that our spouse has not been healthy and not made good choices and we are starting to get the consequences of that in our homes. So, we start recognizing that our homes are chaos and things are starting to fall apart and we start suffering from the “unrighteousness” of someone else, which is extremely painful and difficult. Especially if we have obeyed the Commandments or we’re doing the right thing. Or if you’re not religious the paradigm would be if you’re doing healthy things and someone else is doing unhealthy things, right.
Then is says in verse 21: “And we see that these promises have been verified; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions.” When you say wars, it could be the battle between an abuser and his victim at home. It’s bringing all types of contention and chaos. (Verse 22) “And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, while the wicked brethren having been consigned to bondage, or to perish to dwindle in unbelief.” (I skipped a couple words there, that was in 22)
How Can I Know That I Am Feeling Legitimate Anger?
Okay, so when you are in the home or when this person is unrighteous, you are feeling its affects and it does not feel good. It feels miserable and that’s what Moroni felt too. He felt like being in the situation where there were people who not doing the right thing, who were not making healthy choices, it was miserable.
I think it’s really interesting in Alma 52 verse 21 is says: “And it came to pass that Moroni, having no hopes of meeting them upon fair grounds…” He can see that that it is impossible to talk with these people who are making sad choices and who are lying and deceiving. That it is absolutely impossible to talk to them on fair grounds. “… therefore, he resolved upon a plan that he might decoy the Lamanites out of their strongholds.” So, in several verses it says that he is going to deal with them by stratagem. That he’s not going to actually speak with them because that doesn’t get him anywhere. That he is going to deal with them by stratagem.
Protect Yourself: Set Boundaries
Setting a boundary is completely different than like lying and manipulation. If you think: Ok. This person is too unhealthy to talk to. I need to figure out a way to get to safety which doesn’t involve confronting them directly by saying: Hey. You’re abusive. You’re not safe. I can’t be around you. Because that’s just going to set you up for more abuse. So, what exactly are you going to do. This is an example of that in Chapter 54 verse 7. Moroni is talking to them and says: “Yea, I would tell you these things if you were capable of hearkening unto them; yea, I would tell you concerning that awful hell that awaits to receive such murderers as thou and thy brother have been…” You know in our case they’re murdering our family. They’re murdering hope. They’re murdering goodness in our homes.
Legitimate Anger Can Ensure Our Safety
He says: “…except that ye repent and withdraw your murderous purposes and return your armies to your own lands.” (Verse 8) But as ye have once rejected these things, and have fought against the people of the Lord, even so I may expect you will do it again.” So, Moroni is saying: You know what? I just keep seeing this pattern over and over and over again. (Verse 9) “And now, we are prepared to receive you; and except you withdraw your purposes, behold, ye will pull down the wrath of God whom you have rejected upon you, even to your utter destruction.” (Verse 10) “But, as the Lord liveth, our armies shall come upon you except ye withdraw…” and then he says in verse 11: “But behold, it supposeth me that I talk to you concerning these things in vain; or it supposeth me that thou art a child of hell; therefore, I will close my epistle…” This is in a letter that he is saying this.
The Goal Is Peace: Anger Is A Piece Of That
Then in verse 12 at the end he says: “…I will give you battle even until you are destroyed from the face of the earth.” So, Maroni is very angry in a good way. He’s saying: This cannot happen anymore. You will not do this anymore. Then in verse 13 he says: “Behold, I am in my anger, and also my people; ye have sought to murder us, and we have only sought to defend ourselves. But behold, if ye seek to destroy us more we will seek to destroy you…”
Now, we are not Captains of Armies. We are stay-at-home moms, some of us. Some of us have jobs. We are trying to care for little children. So, the goal of this podcast is not to say go destroy someone, right. That is not the goal. But, here is Moroni who is a righteous man. And he is saying that. And even though we do not have the capability to stop the abuse in terms of saying: Hey, you either stop this or I will kill you, which Moroni does. We do have the ability to say you either stop this or we will not be around you anymore. That is a righteous thing to do. Moroni is the most righteous person and he is doing that, so we can follow his example with peace and with confidence.
Legitimate Anger Can Be Healing
There are lots of examples about this. In Alma 55 he refuses to do what the enemy asks him to do and he lays down a boundary. Moroni does. He says: (Verse 2) “…for I will not grant unto him that he shall have any more power than what he hath got.” In Chapter 57 verse 20 is says: “…they were firm and undaunted.” I am going to add in their boundary although it doesn’t say that. In 57 verse 26 miracles start happening. In terms of Moroni’s people, the women and the children and the righteous people it says: “And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared… And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power.”
Use Your Anger To Help You Set Boundaries
In Chapter 58 verse 6 the bad guys, the evil people in the Book of Mormon are called the Lamanites, at lease in this period of time, and in verse 6 it says: “And the Lamanites were sallying forth against us from time to time, resolving by stratagem to destroy us; nevertheless we could not come to battle with them, because of their retreats and their strongholds.” So, BOOM, we have a boundary there. (verse 7) “And it came to pass that we did wait in these difficult circumstances for the space of many months, even until we were about to perish for the want of food.” So, they’ve created a boundary. They’re waiting it out and it’s not going well for them. Then in verse 8 the Lord’s promises are revealed. “But it came to pass that we did receive food, which was guarded to us by an army of two thousand men to our assistance; and this is all the assistance which we did receive, to defend ourselves and our country from falling into the hands of our enemies, and to contend with an enemy which was innumerable.”
Legitimate Anger Can Lead To Courage
So, basically here Moroni is saying: Man, we were under siege. It seemed like things were coming to us from every side. And in verse 9: “And now the cause of these our embarrassments, or the cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not; therefore, we were grieved and also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction.” (Verse 10) “Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.” (Verse 11) “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.”
“It Looks Like Setting Boundaries”
In verse 12: “And we did take courage with our small force which we had received and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies, and to maintain our lands, and our possessions, and our wives, and our children, and the cause of our liberty.” We are in a great battle woman with unhealthy behaviors and we’ve seen the consequences in our homes. Standing for truth and righteousness in this situation it looks different than what may be the typical Christian family looks like. It looks like setting boundaries and this only we can do because only we know the level of deceit and destruction and evil that might be going on in our own homes.
Legitimate Anger Enables Us To Get To Safety
In 58 verse 37 “…—we trust God will deliver us, notwithstanding the weakness of our armies, yea, and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies.” In verse 40 talking about the righteous armies and I’m talking about you and I’m going to put a we instead of a they here: “But behold, we have received many wounds; nevertheless we stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made us free; and we are strict to remember the Lord our God from day to day; yea, we do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; for our faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come.”
Have Faith In Yourself
The prophesies in the scriptures, both in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, talk about righteous people or people who are healthy going through great trials and then the Lord promises them peace. Also, it commands us to pray. I don’t know how, at least in my situation, my ex is still extremely abusive, and I still have to hold a no contact boundary with him. So, I don’t know when God will deliver me from having to interact with him at all, but I don’t know when that will happen, and I pray that it will happen soon. That He will deliver us. But the Lord has promised us that.
For those of you who aren’t religious, I think you can put faith in knowing that if you do the right thing and if you put boundaries up that the right thing will happen. Call it karma, call it the Law of the Harvest, call it the Universe, call it whatever you want to call it. But we have to have faith in something because this really truly is a situation that we cannot solve ourselves. It’s bigger than we are. That’s what makes it so overwhelming is that we have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s actions and there is no way that we can make up for that.
Many Women Who Have Been Betrayed Feel Legitimate Anger
There’s no way that me by myself that I can say: Okay. Well, I’m going to make all things right for me and my kids. Like, they’re not right. They’re not going to be right. For me, as a Christian, relying on my Savior and the Atonement to make up for that brings me peace and brings me hope. I know that all I need to do is set that boundary and maintain it just like Moroni did and continue to maintain it and say: I’m standing for truth and righteousness and hopefully He will deliver me from my enemies.
There are so many examples in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible, the most famous being Moses who is able to deliver the Israelites from the bondage of Pharos and helps them walk through the Red Sea on dry ground to safety, and then they end up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Which is kind of what I felt at first.
Find Healthy Ways To Work Toward Peace
I felt like: Ok. God has taken me out of bondage, led me through dry ground, and now I’m wandering around in the wilderness because I still don’t what’s going to happen, and I still have serious trials. But reading the scriptures brings me peace. Reading the scriptures helps me know that this pattern that we are seeing with our very own eyes and in our very own homes is the pattern that has existed since the beginning of time. It’s the same pattern with all people, with all different religions, with all different paradigms; where we have righteousness or health and we have unrighteousness or unhealthy behaviors and how do we create a peaceful, happy, healthy life. I believe it’s through obeying the commandments, others of you maybe believe that it’s through healthy behaviors. How ever you want to reach that is fine with me, but that is what we’re working towards: peace.
“What I Feel Is Anger, Now How Am I Going To Get Back To Peace?”
So, those of you who are struggling with anger right now, the whole point of this episode today is that if you’re struggling with anger it may be time to embrace that a little bit. I write in a gratitude journal. I just wrote everything that was going on. It’s a Melody Beatie exercise called How to Make a Miracle in 42 days and you’re supposed to write all the things that you are not grateful for and you write down I am grateful for blank. So, basically when I was doing that I was writing I am grateful for how angry I am. After a while I was like, wait a minute. How else should I feel? If I didn’t feel angry I would be weird. If I didn’t feel angry there would be something wrong with me. Like, I’d be missing some essential human thing. Once I realized that if I didn’t feel angry something would be wrong with me and I would be weird, then I could actually embrace it and say: Okay. What I feel is anger. Now how am I going to get back to peace.
Faith Can Help You Work Through Anger
Having these scriptures, knowing that many righteous people through all of time have felt righteous anger and felt a desire for justice, and that that’s not a bad thing. Also, when we know that we can’t get the justice that we deserve, letting that go and surrendering that to God has really helped me. To say: I know that I can’t produce this myself. I know that in this world that we live in and the current society that we have; judges, clergy, and other people don’t understand this. They’re not going to hold the people accountable. They’re not Moroni. They’re not going to hold them accountable like Christ did or like Moroni. I’m doing the best I can but I’m not the leader, you know, of an army. I can’t do this. But God can. And even though I haven’t witnessed it with my own eyes, I believe that He will.
Legitimate Anger Can Ensure Our Peace
You guys might think I’m crazy. And I’m alright with that. But I’m going to choose to believe in this and I’m going to keep working toward it. I’m going to try to create my home like Moroni did as a fortress of peace and safety and security for me and my children where they can experience refuge from the tumult of this world.
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Thank you for allowing me to share these scriptures with you. They’re really important to me and I hope you found them helpful. If you didn’t, I appreciate your patience. If you’re struggling with your faith; it doesn’t matter which faith whether you’re Christian, Jewish, whatever, if you’re struggling with your faith and the response of your faith community to the abuse, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is here to support you.
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Oh this is sooooo assuring.
Things are desperate with my marriage and I have been feeling so angry; I have not been able to shift the anger from within myself, but this helps me to onsider that perhaps I am not meant to be removing my anger but finding an effetive and safe way to respond to the source of the battles
Robyn, I’m so glad you found it helpful!