Friday, 6 May 2016

Anger Is An Option, Not A Requirement

Anger. It's such a waste of time, such a waste of energy. I see absolutely no value in getting angry or staying angry. I used to be different. As a young man I was filled with anger. As I aged and matured, I came to see anger for what it really was, a way of expressing power in attempt to get my own way.  I used to think that my anger was righteous, borne out of the frustration of an unfair situation or some measure of disrespect. What I have come to see, as the years have gone by, is that anger is more about fear, my own fears, than anything else.

I used to get angry at my ex-wife. She would do something which I thought disrespected me as a Husband and as a Father. I would lose my temper, yell, say outrageous things, all in an attempt to express my displeasure at her behaviour. Other times I would get frustrated at her passive aggressive behaviour, and this too would lead to anger. And then I would have to apologize for my anger.

My favourite was trying to get her out of the house on time when we were going somewhere. She always seemed to find something which needed to be done just as we were getting ready to leave. She would then tell me that we were late because I didn't help her when she was trying to get ready to leave. I didn't help her because I didn't know what she wanted done. In some cases, when I did try to help, the list simply got longer rather than shorter. So I got angry, went and sat in the car, and thus became responsible for our tardiness. I was the one who ended up apologizing.

What I didn't know is that my anger was really an expression of my fear. I was afraid people would look down on me if I was late. I was afraid my wife would get angry with me if I didn't help. I was afraid that no matter what I did, she would be unhappy and blame me for it. I slowly began to notice that all of my anger was really about me, about what I wanted, about my desires and demands not being met. It was all about me. Anger is a selfish response.

I've learned over the years. I'm not immune to anger. Sometimes the roots are too deep, the fear to base to question. Mostly, though, I look at myself as I begin to anger and ask myself it it's really worth it, if my anger has any value. Sometimes it actually does, but it is essential that I know why I am angry, what it is that I fear. I've also learned not to hang on to my anger. It's simply a burden I do not need. There are so many other good things in life which I can do with that energy.

I've also learned to recast some of the things which make me angry into things I am grateful for. For example, I could get upset because Katherine folds my laundry differently than I do. But instead, I rephrase that emotion; I'm grateful because Katherine folds my laundry. Or I could be angry because someone comes late to my dinner party. Instead, I am grateful that someone comes to my dinner party. Inside of every bit of anger is something to be grateful for, if I can only find it.

My anger is still problematic at times. There are things for which I must still apologize. Mostly I try to let the past be the past and do better in the future. Mostly I try to be slow to anger and quick to forgive, both myself and the object of my anger. I don't like being angry; I would rather be happy. These days I have so much to be angry about that if I didn't deal with it, I would be miserable. And as my brother, Adam, says, "Suffering in life is mandatory. Misery is optional." I choose not to be angry.

1 comment:

  1. I can't even begin to tell you how appropriate and timely, for me, this wonderfully insightful post is. I had a very difficult day full of fiery anger, and your words of wisdom have helped calm the beast within. Thank you.