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When anger arises from a righteous need for moral justice (such as toward a court order banning prayer in schools or legalizing homosexual marriage or something of that nature—something that you feel is morally wrong and needs to be corrected), there is a healthy and life-giving way to respond that will not only benefit your internal need, but may change the situation and benefit others at the same time.

Assertiveness is a positive declaration of an opinion or conviction that promotes change and hope for victims of injustice. This involves communicating your unmet needs in a rational and loving manner, realizing that we do not war against flesh and blood, but against spiritual principalities and the lies of the devil (Ephesians 6:12). Assertiveness reveals truth and motivates others to take action in voicing their agreement with that truth.

Assertiveness does not have to be political in nature, but it can also come up in the boardroom, in your friendships, or at the dinner table. Assertiveness agrees that we are all equal and that our personal opinions and feelings are no more valuable than those of another. It lovingly presents alternatives and works with others to find truth and arrive at the best solution to the issue at hand.

Assertiveness does not push an agenda, and does not dwell on trivial issues (like what you’re having for dinner tonight or where you’re going on vacation), but it operates out of a true respect for others and their opinions, and is open and willing to consider the opinions of others in a cooperative pursuit of truth.

An example of this type of consideration is found in a style of Jewish rabbinical teaching, where rabbis partner with their students in the pursuit of truth and clearer understanding of the Scriptures. They understand that God is far too vast for our finite minds to understand, and so they understand that whatever they currently believe may not be absolute truth. There is always more of God to discover, and there are deeper levels of truth to be found.

So when they teach, they ask questions of their students, even ones they don’t have answers to, to develop discussions and to help their students to think through the tough issues for themselves. The best rabbis are very open to learning from their students, as much as they want to teach them.

And so, assertiveness must be infused with humility. The rabbis I speak of are indeed trying to prove a point (and one of great moral significance), but they’re not so stuck on their own opinions that they forget to listen, or that they demean or devalue their students, or that they’re not open to being wrong. They understand that their students are also searching for truth just like they are, and they want to do all they can to help everyone’s needs be met.

The consequences of this expression of anger are life-giving. Assertiveness builds and restores relationships, influences mutually beneficial actions, and relieves any tension between differing opinions. It validates our unmet needs and expresses them to others lovingly, and it listens to and validates others’ needs, so that everyone’s needs might be met. It maintains selfworth while preserving the worth of others, it establishes righteousness, and it creates unity (see Psalm 133).

Continue to Letting Go ->

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