Never let the sun set on anger

‘Never let the sun set on anger’ is a phrase I’ve known since I can remember. It has legitimately been with me for my entire life. And as a prideful, ego-filled (ego-fuelled, perhaps) person, I’ve always just thought yeah, yeah. But it’s improved my marriage, endlessly.

Well, I ought to qualify that.

‘Improved my marriage’ is a far larger category than one simple phrase. But using Never let the sun set on anger as a guidepost has enabled me to access something even more important. Forgiveness.

Leadership means addressing anger with love, by going first.

Love takes many forms of expression. One of them – arguably the most powerful – is the ability to apologise first.

This is one of the teachings of Christianity. It teaches humility, and through that teaching allows you to discover peace; only in peace will you find the capacity to reconnect.

The trouble with the framing, however, especially to those who are not Christians, is that it appears overly servile.

What if the situation is not your fault?

What if the other person is simply an arsehole?

Isn’t it opening yourself to the abuse of others – especially emotional abuse – if you apologise first, even if it’s not your fault?

Why would you apologise first if it isn’t your fault?

Every question listed above is valid, as is every premise. But the kicker, one that I’ve learned recently, is that apologising first isn’t about who did what to whom. It is about breaking the ice.

It doesn’t mean that you have to accept fault, or accept that you are a causation of someone else’s emotions. All it means is that you’re approaching them, peacefully, and waving a white flag.

Bearing a white flag allows you to step out of the fierce bond that anger creates.

Anger creates a fierce bond between parties. It’s a bond so strong that it looks like isolation. What a concept! Here’s what I mean: When you and your worthy opponent are fiercely mad at/with each other, you are in a stand-off.

The stand-off will only last so long as the passion.

And I truly mean passion. Passions are fleeting. Psychology now will have us speak of emotions, but that’s very recent – only since the late 19th Century. Prior to that, we experienced passions.

After the passion has dissipated, what you’re left with is pride. Pride creates mental stories, mental stories create resentment. Resentment creates new passions.

This is why, even when you’re still in the passion, stepping forward to apologise is such a healing balm. It calms the waters. It allows you to say, I’m sorry you’re upset. It allows you to recognise your own role (if there is one). It allows you to lay the white flag at your worthy opponent’s feet and walk away.

You’ll find that your worthy opponent will walk towards you once their own passion dies away.

As women, we are called to be leaders in our families, but in gentleness. This is why, if you’ve spent your life within the chains of masculine-energy frameworks, leading the way through a door like apologies makes you want to vomit.

Leadership of people requires the ability to be a person of character. This means being capable of addressing your own passions and doing the right thing regardless.

Addressing anger within the same day prevents resentment and promotes forgiveness

Once you’ve been big enough to step up and make the first, gentle, move, you’ll recognise the positive after-effects. Resentment drops. Positive bonds increase. Forgiveness becomes accessible.

Forgiveness is another term that comes to us dripping with the baubles of organised religion, which is why you rarely hear about it now outside of those constraints. And yet, forgiveness will set you free.

As an artist, and as a coach, I spend a lot of time pondering and working with artistic blocks. Many of those blocks originate with the comments and behaviours of others. And they persist because those people haven’t been forgiven.

The act of forgiveness means completely pardoning someone for something. It means you no longer think about it. It means it no longer shapes your thoughts, or your emotions, or what comes out the other side. Thoughts are things; remember Prentice Mulford?

Just like apologising first is not about the other party, neither is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not about acceptance.

Forgiveness is not about owning someone else’s behaviour or language.

The act of forgiving is an act of seeing someone as a human with a heart, and emotions, and flaws and faults. And then letting them and their acts go.

Sometimes that means you have to actually let them go from your life. But most of the time they already have departed, often long ago! You have simply held onto them, fiercely, for the entirety of your life.

So forgive them. Let them be free. And in doing so, free yourself.

Next time you’re in a squabble or a stoush, apologise before the sun goes down. Don’t let the sun set on anger; it hardens the heart, because anger transforms into resentment.

Take a deep breath and, instead, offer an apology. Don’t persist if they’re still pissed. Just offer it, quietly, and let them be. They will, when they’re calm, come to you. And that is the secret of the good life.

Once you see this magic at work, it will be the balm that heals you, your life, and your art. But you’ve got to have enough courage and character to stand tall and do it.

Did you enjoy this? Get Dear Artist via email every week:

Or choose my regular newsletter instead. 🙂 If you want letters in your real-life letterbox sign up here instead.

Share your thoughts:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.