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John O’Leary asks us how long we should stay mad and shares a story that will let you see the truth that it might be to time let go, now.

“Being resentful is like taking poison…. and waiting for the other person to die.”  – Nelson Mandela

How long should I stay mad?

Don’t know about you, but I ask myself this question with far more frequency than I’d like to admit.

It’s likely one you’ve wrestled with, too. Perhaps after a friend let you down, a coworker missed an important deadline, a child disobeyed, or a petty fight erupted with a family member. And with the added stress of the approaching holidays, we’ll likely have additional occasions of being somehow slighted, offended, or let down.

So, let me ask again, how long should we stay mad?

This was a question Walter Wangerin had to answer, too.

He shares vulnerably in his book Ragman: And Other Cries of Faith, that he and his wife had frequent disagreements when they were first married. Hot-tempered and prideful, his coping strategy in those early days was to storm out of the apartment, slam the door and walk it off.

Well, on one such occasion after a small disagreement, Walter angrily turned away from his wife, grabbed his jacket, put it on, stormed outside and slammed the door shut. Only to realize his coat was stuck in the doorjamb.

It was a frigid evening and pouring outside. The door was locked. He was trapped.

With the steady rain falling, Walter had just two choices.

He could take off the coat, leave it in the doorway and walk into the frigid rain without a jacket.


Or he could simply humble himself, ring the doorbell, have his wife open the door and be released from the prison.

What would you do?

Let humor, love, care, empathy – whatever connects you – be the bridge to forgiveness now.

Walter rang the bell. His wife approached, looked out the window, and understood what happened. She saw her husband in the rain, soaked and stuck. The angry frown still present from their earlier fight dissolved into a gentle smile on her face. As she stepped closer, her smile grew in size, she began laughing, opened the door, lovingly grinned at her husband and invited him back in.

And like that, the fight was over.

The door was open and he was free to step out of the rain, into their apartment and back into relationship with his bride. It was that easy.

But Walter, still upset, did what I think many of us would have done. He refused. He hadn’t proved his point clearly enough. He wasn’t done being mad. He wrote,

“In that moment, I could simply have laughed with her. And humor would have provided the bridge to reconciliation.
But I refused to do so.
I gathered up my coat.
And I walked off into the rainy evening.
A prisoner of my own refusal to laugh.”

My friends, how long should you stay mad?

I must admit that in my life, and perhaps you’ve found in yours, that even with the door open and the bridge of reconciliation available, I tug on my jacket, turn around in anger, and walk into the cold rain by myself.

But going forward, let’s determine to let go of our ego.

Let’s choose to ring the bell, meet their smile with ours, and come back into the house.

Let’s set down the poison, reenter relationship, and realize the gift of doing life, together.

This is your day. Live Inspired. 

Looking for more?

  1. Q. Want an awesome story on forgiveness?
    A. Check out this episode of the Live Inspired Podcast with Veteran and POW Charlie Plumb who shares how his "why" got him through his biggest trials.
  2. Q. Need a little humor to alleviate your holiday blues?
    A. Check out this interview on the Live Inspired Podcast with special guest, comedian Trey Kennedy.
  3. Q. Want to share joy?  
    A. Check out our inspirational gifts in the shop.

10 replies on “What would you do?”

This story came at just the right time for me today. My wife and I have been married for 45 years and the pandemic has really put a major strain on our relationship. Both are retired and we have downsized to a small condo so we are under one another feet all the time. No where to hide now. I find I am constantly angry about silly things and it is starting to effect everything.
I wake up now and pray that I can step back from things that don’t really matter. Pause , pray and proceed is my motto now. I need to also reach out to people and vent because I find that when you talk to someone you realize that the anger is not justified

Thank you William for sharing ….. MANY of us can relate, my friend…trust me! Keep pausing, reflecting, praying and proceeding … and do all of it with love.

What do you do when the person you are mad at has continued to hurt and mistreat you for years and years. You have watched her mistreat other family members and even your friends. Facebook is her favorite weapon. Oh and yeah…. you call her mom.

SUCH a great question …. MLK wrote “It’s hard for me to like the man who is kicking me in the head when I am on the ground…. and then I realize, I dont have to like him …. I just have to love him.” … Recommend you replace the word “him” with “Mom” … I’d imagine it will be very hard to change someone with the temperament and amount of years of your mother …. that being said, gentle, appropriate correction is critically important as we parent our kids …. and parent our parents. I’d consider writing her a letter thanking her for all she taught you and did for you …. that you are the amazing person you are today because of her … and to let her know that every time you hear her slight others and put them down it hurts you because someone else doesn’t know the amazing lady that you truly are…. You may not be able to change your mom….. but you might be able to positively change the lives of those watching the way you interact with her … and rather than drowning in her negativity seem to float above it.

Thank you for always reminding us that there is a better way…to see things…to respond to life’s challenges…to live inspired lives of purpose!

Releasing my anger is like lifting a burden off of my mind and my heart. It brings me so much peace! BUT, how do I make my family release their anger with that same family member? That is a problem that still lays on my heart.

My friend Jeanette — through the example of your freedom, you’ll set those who chose to be liberated free, too….. This sounds idyllic….but time and again I’ve seen it happen where one family member … or person in an office …. or community changes …. and the others around her begin to long for the peace, the joy the acceptance that person radiates….Keep shining …. light always cuts through darkness.

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