I thought of how I was going to edit a different essay before posting it, and the thought of “Anger Anonymous” popped into my head. Wouldn’t it be great to have such a thing? Another post was forming in my mind, so I decided to research it first. There are at least two such organizations: Emotions Anonymous and Rageaholics Anonymous. If you are interested, you can look them up on line.
I grew up with a volatile father. Oddly, I found it easy to live with him. It was easy to see when he was angry, and you left him alone. My mother was the Queen of Control. She was also a bookkeeper. She would never tell me what I did wrong. She rarely said, “Wait until your father gets home.” But she kept meticulous records, and she gave them to my father when he returned from a business trip. You can guess what happened when Dad got home.
My wife’s temperament and mine are almost identical. The one area that we are different is that I am an introvert while she is a strong extrovert. Neither one of us has any problems showing our emotions, but because of our environments were different growing up, we are comfortable with different emotions. She puts her love for others into action by helping everyone in sight. When she helps a total stranger with their shopping, I show my anger (what my environment taught me) that we had places to go. Forget helping that stranger, and let’s check out of the store.
It is not that other emotions were not displayed in my home growing up, but they were not displayed often and mostly suppressed. Anger was an everyday occurrence when my father was home. Since I was “sensitive” (their word for my preference of using feelings over logic to solve problems – temperament study talk), I had to have that beaten out of me before the bullies at school beat it out of me. Okay, they preferred logic over feelings, but preemptive beatings to avoid future beatings is still beatings. How can that be logical?
The result of the preemptive beatings is one of my wife’s concerns about me. I don’t cry. I do cry, but she rarely sees it. I almost lost control at my father’s funeral. I almost lost control, even with a shaky voice, when my mother-in-law died. Take that, you stereotype, bad mother-in-law indeed! I have shed a tear during a couple of movies: “Follow Me, Boys” (thinking of my old scoutmaster) and “Field of Dreams” (thinking of the baseball that my father and I didn’t share, due to his injured shoulder). “Hacksaw Ridge” was so emotional from beginning to end that I wouldn’t suggest going to see the movie without an extra hankie or the economy size box of tissues. Maybe that’s the old army officer in me though.
Equal to my wife’s concern that I never cry is her concern for her own sanity and her hearing loss. I yell at the other drivers on the road. Sure! I know. I swerved onto the shoulder of the road to avoid the collision. As I slowly work my way back onto the road and up to speed, the guy that I am yelling at is a half mile away. My wife says (sometimes calmly), “They can’t hear you, but I can.” I am getting better, honest. And to make one point very clear, I don’t think I have ever driven aggressively and never with road rage.
I am focusing on one sin, anger, but it makes me think of many ‘victimless sins’. When I was in high school, smoking was considered a ‘victimless sin’. It was a personal choice, but since that time, the science of first-hand, second-hand, and even third-hand smoke shows that there are a lot of victims, not just the empty wallet of the smoker. Anger that is vented in private may seem like a victimless sin, but was there unknown venting prior to the private moment that hurt those around you? Jim Gallery said, “When you strike out in anger, you may miss the other person, but you will always hit yourself.” In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus talks about anger being equal to murder. Why did Jesus make such a bold change to our thinking? It comes down to what Jesus called the greatest commandments (Matthew 20:36-40). When we are angry with our neighbor, it is hard to show love to him, but our anger could be saying volumes about our relationship with God.
When we are angry at someone else, are we also angry with God? Are we saying any of the following, even subconsciously? God, if you are sovereign, why did you put that idiot in my path? God, if you love me, why do you test my resolve not to strike out in anger? God, why is life so hard? What are You doing to fix this?
I will grant that I will not be happy the next time someone runs me off the road, but I know that God is in control. That teaching moment was meant for me, the other passengers in my car, and the driver and passengers in the other car. Will I say a prayer for the ‘idiot’ or will I build up anger? Will the other driver ever realize that he almost had an accident? That’s between him and his maker. If he didn’t notice and doesn’t learn to correct the behavior, there will eventually be another incident. That causes me to think of the victims of that next sin. “God, help the driver to learn, and, Lord, have Your hand of protection on his future victims.”
Have I figured out this anger thing? Intellectually, most definitely. In practice, I think of what I might say at an Anger Anonymous meeting. “Good evening, I’m Mark. I have experienced over five hours of serenity since my last thought of anger… Crap, why did I think of that! One Mississippi, Two Mississippi…” For those who go to those meetings, I apologize if you thought I was making slight of the situation, but the Devil seems to enjoy people who think they’ve got it figured out on an intellectual basis. Because that is when the practical battle begins.
It’s a part of loving one’s enemies. The other drivers on the road aren’t my enemies, but when their carelessness puts me and my passengers in danger. Do I yell? Do I store up anger? Or do I pray for them?