How to Let People Off Your Hook



ON the hook – a state of tension, conflict or awkwardness between people when one’s anger is misplaced.

OFF the hook – a state of comfort, belonging or rejuvenation when one’s anger is properly placed.


“Think faster!” -- This is what I say to Justin whenever I am baiting my hook. You see, Kasey approaches just about every situation with a slurry of thoughts and rapid-fire words. Justin? Not so much.

Justin is a “good ‘ol boy.” In Texas, “good ‘ol boys” have a reputation of slow speech, which gives the false impression they are also slow to think. But this is not the case. Justin may be a cowboy, but he is a cowboy with grand, life-changing thoughts and ideas—but unlike me, he takes his time attaching words to them.

When Justin speaks, it is not harsh, complex or motivated by emotion. He has no use of poetic allegories or witty catchphrases. When Justin finally does use his words, one can rest assured that he has taken the time to conclude the most logical and applicable use of them. He refers to everything else as “sideways energy.” This, of course, drives me crazy, because, I smoke sideways energy in 3 packs a day.

In 15 years of knowing this man, I still want him to respond to people and circumstance the same way that I do. When planning for our vacation, I expect his level of excitement to overflow into Google searches of the area so that our detailed travel itinerary will not miss one sensory moment. When cooking a meal, I would love for him to make anything besides meatloaf. When we disagree, I would rather him speak at decimal 10 with a pinch of profanity, instead of simply sit there and watch me do that alone. When we are “romantic” with one another I would want him to brush his teeth, smell like Giorgio Armani, and maybe even hit the tanning bed a few times before. When we engage our children, I imagine him finishing every instruction with, “Well, the Bible says…” – giving quotable balance to both the Old and New Testament.

I want Justin to respond to stuff like I respond to stuff so that I might maintain control at all times, more accurately predict our future, and reduce the risk of dealing with my own crap. We set hooks for the people in our life whenever we craft a scenario that uses people as the minions whose job it is to keep us on our throne of control.


It is interesting to me how different people associate with expectations. The more free-spirited, “don’t fence me in” brand of us, tend to view expectations as the enemy. While the more conservative, rule following of us, find a bit of comfort in expectation. (Side note, in both cases, expectation is being used as a cattle prod to keep their people in line).

Where do you fall with expectations? Love them or hate them? Not sure? For help, which of the following quotes would you be more likely to say?

Expectation is the root of all heartache.” - William Shakespeare


When you expect great things, great things will happen.” – Michael Jordan

(Shakespeare, Jordan—basically the same person).

By definition, an expectation is looking forward to something—it is the degree of probability that we believe something will occur. I doubt any of us would deny just how easy it comes for us to craft an expectation. Whether directed toward a person or experience, our brain finds its built-in security blanket in expectation. Why? Because expectations are hard-wired into us from birth. We can attempt to suppress them, fight against them, or pin quotes we feel best validate our opinion of them. Regardless, expectations exist because humans are born with the sinful desire to be god. Because our mortality makes us so mad, when the reality of our divine-deficiencies hit us, an expectation is born. Expectations tend to soothe the pain we feel associated with the fact that we make very crappy gods.

But the truth is, an expectation has its place. According to the Bible, there are 2 brands of expectation—one points to God’s glory, while the other points to the human desire for glory.

Philippians 1:19-21: Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eagerexpectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Hebrews 10:26-27: For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

Notice the front-end descriptors of expectation from these two verses—eager verses fearful.

In the first verse, Paul wants the church in Philippi to long for their true home in Heaven. He is encouraging Christians to live out their mortality through the expectation of their immortality. Here we see the right side of expectation: one that is rooted in the finished work of Jesus. In right expectation, our eagerness stirs us to hope for greater things, not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

Justin will be the first to admit that, sometimes, my expectation of him to “think faster” is spot on. There are times when Justin is prone to disregard really important things simply because it takes more effort and pride-check on his part to consider the possibilities there. I long for Justin to see beyond what “makes sense” and into the adventure of what doesn’t make sense at all. It is a hope I have for myself, therefore, I easily desire this hope for him. There is a right and eager expectation I have here for eternal perspective to captivate both of us.

Eager expectation is right and welcomed—it is an expectation for ourselves and for others that there ismore healing, more freedom, more wisdom, more adventure, and more healthy ways of co-existing available to us than what we are choosing in the here and now. This expectation cancels out the beloved quotes instructing us to have no expectations at all—that we can avoid all disappointment and hurt if we would just rid ourselves of expectations in general. Paul gives us Biblical context for a right expectation—one that teaches and encourages others to enjoy life from an eternal perspective.

In the second verse, we see an example of the wrong brand of expectation.

Expectation goes sour when our focus goes from eternal to internal.Eternal expectation breeds confident hope that says, “friend, there is more for you.” Internal expectation, however, breeds fear that says, “friend, I need you to be more for me.”

As stated in Hebrews, wrong expectation occurs when we forget there has already been a sacrifice for our sin. If the debt of our sin has not been forgiven, it leaves us only to work off the remaining balance. We try. But when all attempts to pay back the massive debt fail, we rush around crafting scenarios that make us feel better about ourselves. We are so scared of getting caught not being enough, that we find ourselves only engaging in relationships that help us hide what we owe. In the fear of our mortality being found out, we spend loads of sideways-energy shifting the attention from our inability to be god onto the fact that he or she over there is a lousy god too. The fear of actually having to confess and repent of our sin keeps us in a toxic cycle of wrong expectation, which leads only to resentment. And resentment suffocates us. It really does. My definition of resentment is this: the brutally slow process of a decomposing relationship.


I may not be a skilled fisher-woman, but I have done enough fishing to know that the catch is in the bait.

Humans bait their hook of wrong expectation with the flavor of anger.

We can determine whether or not we have people on our hook by asking ourselves 2 questions about our anger:

  1. When I get angry, what am I defending?
  2. When I get angry, what am I attacking?

The defense of selfish anger often looks like negativity. These are people who see injustice and fault everywhere, and rarely see good in anybody. The attack of sinful anger often looks like blowing up or shutting up—punishing people with either our silence or our argument. In sinful anger attack we want others to feel as miserable as we do.

Selfish anger like this one, baits a hook, while righteous anger needs no hook.

In righteous anger, defense is a desire for truth to have the final say. In righteous anger, an attack looks like an aggressive posture toward the problem, not the person.


Because Jesus has fully paid our debt and released us from the need to be god, we don’t need a hook. Because he has taken our judgment and punishment, we no longer need to determine that for others. While sin is a real and serious problem, God has given us the ability to get angry about it without defending, attacking or controlling people from a selfish position.

We let people off the hook of meeting a need for us, because Jesus has met all of our needs, finally and fully. We expect his love to satisfy us, therefore, we are not surprised when human love does not. Getting mad at a person leads to toxic, internal expectation. However, getting mad at a problem leads to liberating, eternal expectation.


We can be eager for others to experience the hope of Christ without expecting them respond to his love in the same way that we do. Whether a lost person who denies the truth all together, or, a believer on a loop of unhealthy choices,

Ephesians 4 teaches us how to direct our anger and hold to right expectation. Consequently, letting all people off our hook.

4:21-24: Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.


I believe that self-awareness is the lost art of the 21st century. We rarely slow down anymore. And if we do, we typically have a screen in our hand or in front of us. The key to releasing others from our needy grasp is to be aware that we are asking something from them in the first place. We cannot do this without first being self-aware. Simply being conscious of our expectations is a sure-fire way to breathe new life and hope into our relationships. Renewing our thoughts and attitudes always starts with self-awareness.

If you really want to let people off the hook of your resentment, then slow down long enough to have a real conversation with them. Don’t look at your phone, don’t avoid awkward tensions by keeping words surface level, and settle in for a deeper understanding of who they are and how you are responding to them. Get alone and consider yourself—what emotions were stirred within you while talking with this person? Be honest with yourself about what expectation you might be holding for them. Is your expectation from a place of eagerness for them to be more deeply satisfied in God? Or, does it come from a place a fear that your own sin will be exposed if you continue in an intimate relationship with them?

4:25-29: So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, or anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.


You can be mad all day long about sin. And this is not some, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ cop-out. One of the hardest Christian disciplines is not compromising our spiritual language and behaviors to protect the flesh-filled feelings of another. Christians don’t want to be seen as conservative, party-poopers any more than the next person, but really loving someone in truth is to show them what truth is. When Jesus captivates our heart, we don’t want to go back to the old ways of existing—we no longer need to lie, guard ourselves, steal, be lazy, get drunk, eat crap, cuss like a sailor, or hold a grudge. God’s Word reminds us that he alone is able to save, rescue and redeem a person. If we attempt to live in our old ways for the sake of someone else, we will actually end of placing them on our hook and then festering in resentment because they did not respond the way we wanted them to. We don’t need to water down our Christian discipline for lost or hurting people to feel loved. Nor, should we hold rebels at arm length in fear their “sin” might rub off on us. God has actually given us the power to release our anger in the right direction—toward the problem, not the person. When our anger is directed rightly, wrong expectations dissipate, while an eagerness for others to be set free emanates. May we never apologize for the love that now owns us, but instead, live it out vibrantly for others to see, taste and crave. Our anger is righteously placed wheneverit is obvious to those around us that we are by no means their hero, but reminds them that they are sure as heck in need of one.

4:30-32: And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.


The quickest way of letting others off your hook of expectation is to live out the forgiveness that has been given to you. This is how we really love people well. Love gets mad at sin because it knows there is something so much better available. Letting people off the hook is to enter in with them, not turn away because they require more energy from us. You and I have been loved by a love that requires NOTHING in return. Now this is a love that every soul longs for, whether or not they admit it. Loving others in forgiveness is to love them without needing anything from them. Ephesians 4 gives us a picture of what it is to love like this by showing us what it IS and what it IS NOT. ((NOT: bitter, induced by rage, marked by anger (the selfish kind), it does not use harsh words to manipulate, or slander to control. What is, however, is: ((kind, tender and forgiving)).


This year I want to be more self-aware of the ways I am attempting to play god by looking at where I am really directing my anger. I commit to confess and repent of the ways I allow resentment to fester by focusing on the needs of the person instead of the finished work of Jesus in both our lives. I beg God for a spirit of kindness and tenderness that leads me to stand firm in the debt that has been paid. As I pull that debilitating hook out of the flesh of others, I believe that grace rushes in to humble me and set them free.