Wednesday, January 20, 2010


A couple of nights ago, I got into a duel of words with someone over my political views. This was someone whose humor I normally enjoy, whose gifted writing has both moved me and made me laugh hysterically, but who is passionate about what he believes. The only downside is his unpredictable tendency to turn on go directly for the jugular in an unnecessarily cruel and hostile way.

Well, it is my belief that people who hurt other people are in pain themselves...or are extraordinarily angry. So, I decided to just go ahead and speak my mind and let the chips fall where they may. And fall they did...

These days it seems that more and more of us are letting our anger out. I know that I have had moments in the past six months that I seemed more intense than the situation called for...and it has surprised people. I normally am not terribly bothered by other peoples' quirks, failings, or choices. Yet, sometimes I reach my limit. I dare say that we all do.
Mainly my responses are that someone has pushed one of the three "hot" buttons of mine that have remained stubbornly sticky and are difficult for me to ignore.

Sometimes a good ole' "hissy fit" is downright comical. We laugh recalling the antics of a certain family member (who shall remain nameless) who had to get control of his temper many years ago. The final straw was his total annihilation of a feather pillow on a hot summer day. As the feathers floated and covered every conceivable surface (including his legs)...he learned that venting the anger involved significant (and tricky) cleanup. Another family member made a conscious decision not to let his temper get the best of him during a softball game sometime in his early 20's. Although family lore has a story of him narrowly missing a brother's head with a crochet ball and hitting a window instead...he rarely ever gets angry anymore...because he no longer sees the point.

Anger often leads to destruction...both in property and to relationships. It has a mind of its own and tears off in paths of self-righteousness. These paths leave a trail of broken feelings and charred trust. Most of us understand the occasional confrontation with a customer (non)service department or even a bad day. Lord knows, we all have them. Even Jesus cleared out a bunch of money changers in the temple in a fit of righteous anger. It happens. We move on.

Because for most of us, in the context of all that we know about a person...we can forgive or even ignore the occasional temper flare. Even people that we don't know as well...we can extend sympathy to if they are angry. We understand the annoyance one feels at having to wait an hour and 45 minutes to see the doctor because his staff overschedules or if someone assigns work that needs to be done immediately...thirty minutes before the end of the workday.

However, we all know people who have a "land mine" personality - meaning nobody really knows when it will be triggered or how much damage it will do. People may love every positive thing about them, but they often tire of living in fear of tripping a wire and setting off a massive explosion. And it is sad when this personality inhabits a person over the chronological age of two.

Oh, we may laugh at a two year old pitching a fit in the aisle at Walmart because those of us who have raised two year olds know what a pleasure (not) that particular experience is. But what about a twenty-two year old that gets angry at his girlfriend and punches her in the face? Or a thirty-two year old that tells his boss what he really thinks and where he can put the job? Or how about the forty two-year old who gets into a fight with his brother-in-law over a college football game? Or the fifty-two year old who stands up at a Little League game and shakes her finger in the face of the coach because her grandson isn't getting to play? Attractive? Hardly.

I believe that there are times when there should be public outrage...when politicians pass brainless legislation, or when judges release pedophiles on parole. And yes, coworkers or bosses are going to try our patience. Even renewing your car tag is always a threat for a blood pressure spike. But to rage against people - especially friends - for not agreeing with you? To attempt to make them feel that they are inferior human beings for daring to disagree with you? I think not.

I find that most of the time we can head off our anger if we honestly try to see things from a different perspective. People who lived through the Depression have a hard time parting with things. Folks who participated in Civil Rights marches remember the unfairness. And kids who have never been denied anything don't understand why they can't have everything...even if we've done our best not to spoil them. We have to temper our expectations (no pun intended) so that we don't turn into rabid banshees...especially those of us approaching the hormonal years. letter short of "danger" as I've seen in my church bulletin at some point in time. Its evidence is seen in the newspapers every day as someone shoots their cousin over a pair of tennis shoes or trashes someone's reputation because a boy she likes prefers someone else.

The antidote to anger is hard to figure out. For me, I try to find the humor in a situation. If that doesn't work...I'll look to get away from whatever is irritating me beyond belief. Over time, I do tend to get more rational. I will admit, though, that some SEC football coaches make me mad enough to look like any of the unfortunates on any random episode of "Cops."

So, for my friend who "unfriended" me on Facebook several weeks ago and then blasted me the other night...I wish him well and hope that he finds happiness...and perhaps a local anger management class. I'll miss his witty commentary and knowing how his life on the complete and total other end of the spectrum from me (in just about all aspects of life) is going. But I won't miss the light treading and the walking on eggshells that those who are friends with him have to do. I'll be more free to be me unapologetically instead of worrying about being politically correct. And that totally works for me.

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