How to Overcome the Pain of Frustration
Feeling the pain of frustration? Want to get rid of it? Here are 8 steps for finding true and lasting inner peace no matter what is going on around you and who is causing it.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:31-5:2 NIV)
Step 1: Identify what is making you frustrated.
Then think of this: Some people can deal with the very same problem and never get frustrated. So why is it irritating you so much? Take a look at the true cause of where your anger is coming from: Look at yourself! Here are some very common sources of frustration:
- I feel frustrated whenever someone doesn’t change fast enough to suit me.
- I want others to improve in order to make my life more pleasant.
Step 2: Acknowledge your frustration as a sin.
When we are frustrated, our attitude is not very loving, is it? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes our behavior when we are living in love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)
When we love, we do not hang onto hurts, because love is not self-seeking. Frustration occurs because we insist that our pain will only go away when the other person shows us they are truly sorry for what they have done.
Love is patient. Frustration is short-tempered.
Love doesn’t take offense when others do something offensive. Frustration is a defense against the offense.
Love doesn’t insist on having its own way. Frustration is the emotional act of insisting that somebody else must do something to bring justice when we have been unfairly treated.
We like to point the finger at other people, because it’s easier than admitting the sin of our unloving reaction to what they have done. To overcome this, ask God to help you see them as He sees them, through His loving eyes.
- See the offender as weighed down by bags of garbage (the abuse that’s been inflicted on them, the rejection and misunderstanding and poor role modeling, etc.)
- Look past the garbage to see the real person underneath.
Step 3: Repent. Turn away from the feeling of frustration.
To repent means to change your mind. Choose to accept people the way they are even though you don’t like everything about them. What if they never improve? Could you still accept them that way? If they do begin to change, is it okay if they don’t change fast enough? What if their lack of improvement or slow growth causes more problems? If you try to repent under your own will-power, you won’t get very far. Ask the Holy Spirit to intervene in your life and give you help. God gives us supernatural help!
Repentance also means forgiving yourself for getting frustrated, and forgiving those who are making you frustrated. Jesus said we have to be ready and willing to forgive continually and repeatedly (“seventy times seven times”), and frustration usually only happens when we are continually and repeatedly offended.
Even after deciding to repent and forgive, the feeling of frustration usually remains. Why? To discover the answer, we move into:
Step 4: Recognize that your desire for people to change is another sin.
Love means seeing the good in others while not holding their sins (their bags of garbage) against them. Because we do love them, we want to see them become free of their garbage. For their own sake, we wish they’d change, and then we get angry when they don’t. To overcome this frustration, we need to stop looking at the garbage. But how?
Step 5: Learn what is the root of your desire for the other person to change.
Usually, the root is Fear. We’re afraid of getting hurt again and so we reach the conclusion: “I should be upset with them for not changing.” This really means: “I must hurt that person now because he might hurt me in the future.” And so we hurt them by being frustrated with them. They don’t even have to know we’re frustrated, as long as we feel frustrated, we feel like we’re getting some sort of revenge.
In other words, fear leads to disapproval of the other people, and disapproval is not love.
- We’re offering conditional love: “If you change, then I will be happy and loving with you.”
- The people causing our problems need our acceptance. To give this to them, we need to get in touch with God’s love for them.
- When we love them with His unconditional love, they experience God’s healing touch.
Step 6: Discover the true source of your happiness.
Our happiness does not depend on others and how they treat us. We don’t need constant kindness from others to feel good. Our happiness depends on how good our relationship is with God. God is our true source of joy and inner peace and a calm, non-frustrated spirit.
- We’re happy because we’re partners with God making a difference in someone’s life.
- We’re happy because God will never do anything to hurt us.
- All other sources of joy only last short time.
But knowing this is not enough. The next time a problem occurs, we’re unhappy and frustrated again. It seems like we’ll only be happy if the person hurting us changes or leaves us alone.
Step 7: Kill off all illusions about other sources of happiness.
We need to become a sign of the true, loving and healing presence of Jesus. Philippians 3:17-21 tells us:
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)
“Enemies of the cross of Christ end in destruction.” Get your eyes off the people who hurt you and look at your own relationship with God, who is love ~ God, whom you rejected when you gave to others your anger and frustration instead of God’s love.
How are you being an enemy of the cross? By rejecting your own crucifixion. People who hurt you are trying to crucify you; they are nailing you to their belief system, their garbage, their sinfulness. And when you’re frustrated, you’re fighting the cross. Jesus showed, by example, that going to the cross for someone is good! He allowed you to crucify Him to your garbage 2000 years ago. But how can it be a good thing for you to be nailed to someone else’s unloving behavior?
John 12:24-26 says:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
A grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to produce much fruit.Your desire for the unloving person to love you must be nailed and killed, and with that you will be killing the source of your frustrations. Then, you will experience the growth of much peace and joy.
If we love our life we will lose it. By hanging onto your life of frustration, you lose what you want most. In your desire for the unloving person to love you the way you want him to, you focus on what is hurting you and you lose touch with whatever amount of love that person has to give.
To serve Jesus, we must follow Him. Where did He go? To the cross! We’ve grown up with the illusion that happiness comes from being right and protecting ourselves from hurts and from crucifixion. To find true happiness in troubled relationships, we must allow these people to crucify us. It doesn’t make sense in the world’s view, but Jesus showed us from the cross that it makes perfect sense from the perspective of love. He said: Stop fighting AND offer no resistance.
But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matt. 5:39-41 NIV)
Our flesh-nature says, “I don’t want to do this! Let this cup pass from me!” Our spirit-nature, connected to Jesus, says: “If they can’t give me love, I must let them crucify my desire to receive love from them.”
St. Ignatius of Antioch said, “I am the wheat of Christ, ground by the teeth of beasts to become pure bread.” By letting people grind us into the ground, we become sacrament for them (the Bread of Christ). We become a sign of the true, loving and healing presence of Jesus.
8. Follow Jesus all the way to the cross in order to reach the resurrection.
To truly love others, we embrace them despite their garbage. Jesus, in order to take our sins to the cross, had to embrace us while we were still laden down with bags and bags of garbage. Embracing the bearer of garbage is truly following Jesus all the way to the cross ~ all the waythrough the cross to the resurrection!
The other person might not change, but you will. You will find inner peace and joy no matter how much you suffer. You will no longer be damaged by the hurts inflicted upon you. You will no longer have any reason to feel frustrated!
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:31-5:2 NIV)
For a fuller explanation of my 8 steps for finding true and lasting inner peace despite frustration, listen to this podcast:
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© 1998 by Terry A. Modica
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