Today I was on my way back home from running some errands, and as I got close to my turnoff, I needed to get in my left lane. I had accelerated enough to get in front of the left lane car, and safely moved to the left as I approached the traffic light. I was at least 2 car lengths ahead of the car behind me – he didn’t have to make any sudden moves, slam on his brakes, or anything. I stopped at the light and as I looked in my rear view mirror, the guy behind me was flipping me off. I did nothing wrong, but apparently my attempt to get in front of him was just too much for him. He could see that I was looking in my mirrors, so he took the opportunity to “chew me out” – actually, it was kind of comical, because I couldn’t hear a word he said, but he continued to voice his displeasure that he was one car length further from the light than he had hoped…
Yesterday I saw a news clip of two men who decided to beat each other with bats and sticks while stopped at a light… at least they were nice enough to get back in their cars when the light turned green so they didn’t hold up traffic.
We are listening to presidential candidates talking about “bombing the h*ll out of our adversaries… local terrorists taking over government buildings, saying they will fight anyone who tries to get them out, and every day someone is posting a video of a fight on Facebook. How have we become such an angry society?
What do we get for our anger? The guy behind me, for all of his shouting and gesturing, didn’t change his situation, didn’t change me, and didn’t effect anyone around him. I wasn’t intimidated by his outrage, and ultimately, he lost no time getting to his destination. Yet I imagine him wanting to tell someone about his incident, how he responded so that the person listening can also be angry at some unknown person. We bring people into our anger so we can keep it longer, rather than dealing with why we are angry in the first place.
Now, I am not saying that we should never be angry. In fact, in scripture it says, “be angry“. Huh? Really? I can be a Christian and be angry? Seems totally out of line with anything I have ever been taught. Well, “be angry” is balanced with “do not sin”. Basically, we can be angry about certain situations, but in our anger we need to look for the right response. Will our anger cause us to do anything to dishonor our relationship with God, or to dishonor others? If so, we need to choose another way.
“Well, maybe I won’t act out right away, but I will certainly tell others about my experience… I’m not just gonna let this go…” There is one last part of the scriptural equation that helps us with that too. It says, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Basically, don’t hold on to your anger. “What? Did you see what that person did to me?” Not negating the wrong that may have been done, but does it make sense to live trapped in the incident, or deal with it, get past it and live in freedom? According to NHTSA, 66% of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving, 37% of all aggressive driving incidents involve a gun, and half the people who are on the receiving end of aggressive behavior respond in kind. So, angry people create more angry people, and more and more people get hurt and/or killed because of things that may not be that serious… because we feel we have a right to hold on to our anger and act out of that anger. And this is only road rage… you can see incidents of domestic violence, racial tension, war… all because we choose to remain in anger rather than dealing with the situation and seeking a resolution.
If you are lucky enough to find a bookstore, you will see volumes written on the subject of dealing with anger. There are some simple steps that seem to be part of the core of addressing anger, the first is think before you act. When we take time to think – not rehashing the incident in our mind, but thinking holistically, about our feelings, about the other person, and the intent (if any) they had, our response to being angry may very often change. Think about the person who cut you off… had they not, how much faster would you have gotten to your destination? What was the person dealing with at the time? Maybe they just got laid off, or were rushing to the aid of a loved one. Who knows… bottom line, it’s rare that the person has it in for us. Maybe they just need some gentle correction.
Healthy anger is good, because it shows us that we do care for things and people, and recognize when a wrong has been done. But we have to keep it healthy so that it becomes productive in the lives of everyone who is affected by it.
I love these two videos, cuz they give us perspective about life and situations that we might not normally consider.