Today I was driving in my little town of Lindon and came to a 4-way stop. I waited an obligatory few seconds before pulling into the intersection. I paid no attention to whether it was my turn–because I was deep in thought, totally distracted. So after I pulled out, probably cutting someone else off who had stopped before I did, the guy who (probably) stopped before I did made an angry face at me and threw up his hands as if to say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU IDIOT–YOU TOOK MY TURN!”
I smiled at him, readying my “I’m so sorry, I screwed up!” face–only to notice as we passed each other that it was my brother-in-law.
He had made that face and gesture jokingly because he knew it was me. (He was paying attention to who arrived first in the intersection, and saw it was me before I identified him.)
Aren’t those the moments where we have the opportunity to reflect on how much better life is when we give people the benefit of the doubt? It doesn’t “release” anger to express it. It doesn’t “get things off our chest” to vent. These were the false doctrines of therapy in the 80′s. It didn’t much help anybody.
All “venting” and “confronting” and “getting things off my chest” does is give traction to the baser parts of human nature–it feeds bad habits that hurt people and disable our own accountability. (Communicate carefully and with love what you’re feeling, YES. Tell people off, NO.)
If we are quick to anger, we might find ourselves filled with toxic rage. When I was young, and I felt anger, I didn’t identify it. I was helpless in its grip. I did things in the heat of the moment that damaged my relationships and my own emotional health.
Now, I sometimes feel incipient anger. I identify it and remove myself from it. I think, “Hm. I am starting to feel angry. I don’t like that feeling. I think I’ll choose to NOT be.” Then I very purposefully set it aside.
Or I break it down and look at it from an opposite angle. Often that angle is something like this: “Well, I feel wronged because Eric criticized the way I did my work. But he was really upset because our boss had yelled at HIM earlier, and if I’m honest with myself, I really did procrastinate that project.” Then I’m not only honest and accountable, but I’m at peace and able to dissolve my own anger more quickly.
Everybody wins. Anger is a sin and it benefits no one. Whoever said all emotions are equal, none are good or bad–well, they’re wrong. We can choose not to be angry.
I hope Frowny is having a better day, today, than she was the day I met her in the Long Beach airport. Sometimes a bad day feels like a license to mistreat others. But it isn’t.
More peace and forgiveness of others (like people who make driving errors or who get angry with you) = less toxicity = better health = purer love for everyone around me = more joy
I appreciate those of you who have pointed out that my blog entry “Airport Story” really DOES have something to do with nutrition. We are more able to operate on a higher plane when the physical vessel is clean. Things of spiritual and emotional import become clearer to us, then.