Anger is a Barrier to Hope

Ok, those of you who know me well may chuckle, for you know that my feisty side, passion for honesty and inability to tolerate meanies can, on rare occasions, bubble up into me “going Scottish” in a redheaded blur. I laugh a bit, as 90+% of the time, I am calm and affable.

I heard a great comment today that helped me find peace with this facet of my personality. Many people believe it to be a contradiction that God is loving and yet also noted as a God to be feared. The point is not that any being has one side but, in our rich tapestry of existence, we all have giving and beautiful parts as well as vehement and furious parts. It’s where we choose to focus our energy that truly matters.

So, I have a story to share. This past week has twice found me in the throes of blinding anger. I am not proud of this; in fact, I felt sick to my stomach and momentarily powerless. I was faced suddenly with both of the things I find unacceptable: disrespect and dishonesty.

  • In instance one, I was taken aback at the verbal flurry of words, excess of scathing emotion and blatant finger-pointing—there were even moments of not-so-veiled innuendo and accusations. Mind you, my logical brain allowed me to remain fairly stoic and analytical, knowing this attack was not a result of me but the other person’s immaturity and fear. And, no, I am not laying blame—not my style. I was simply in the heart of peace, watching as if from outside myself. After the call, however, I felt all the buried frustration well up in a rush of heat, adrenaline and offense. I shared a bit with friends but tried my utmost to shed the burden of anger and enjoy the remainder of my night.
  • In instance two, with the same individual mind you, I realized that the former slight had not completely ebbed away. This person chose to become petty, presented poorly framed facts and looped in others. That was a big mistake. My heart of peace was not enough to overcome the rage, the absolute flame of “how dare they” and the need for retribution. With breathing, more than a bit of venting and a heap of physical exercise, I refrained from responding and, instead, chose to move into a quietly strategic and eerily focused space. As Mr. T would say, “I pity the fool.”

With prayer, meditation and time, I realized several very valuable things I want to share with you. I believe these tips will help you accept your emotions, assist you in managing such attacks and position you to maintain a level of respectful integrity. Here you go, friends:

  1. Never be baited to respond in anger. Your reactive, primitive mind (no offense, we all have it) will want so so much to correct and lash out. Do not surrender your power.
  2. Remember that all attacks are based in the attacker’s fear, insecurity and weakened emotional maturity. Consider each moment of calm and restraint a compliment to yourself.
  3. Look to a physical outlet, like working out, running or intense dance to hit the release valve on your overflowing frustration. You have to clear the excess energy and drain your angst.
  4. Never type, message or post until you’ve had a few hours, a night’s sleep or a full mental break to let the details settle. Words cannot be taken back and esteem is tough to regain.
  5. Spare your friends the blaze of fury. I didn’t do this and should have. No one deserves to be used as a venting outlet. Cherish them and ask for a clear perspective after you calm slightly.
  6. Organize your facts in a journal entry. Remove the emotional intensity with a stream of consciousness outpouring in your notebook. You can tear it up later—no one the wiser.
  7. As much as possible, turn it into laughter. This may surprise you, but when we have time to look back we often find amusement in the folly of such situations. Humor is relieving.
  8. When you are ready to approach the individual, use direct language but not a bunch of “you” statements that seem like accusations to them. Correct but don’t condemn. You may even find that, with enlightenment, the individual sees the light and apologizes.
  9. Pray, meditate, reflect and center your emotions. Transition the aggression and hurt into a request for wisdom and patience. Think of the experience as growth not punishment.
  10. Finally, be ready to truly forgive and let go. This is the hardest but the most liberating. To let the poison of others sink in is to cling to injury and snub the glow of your hopeful spirit.

While none of us are perfect, there are ways to manage difficult situations (and people) with grace. Most of all, try not to let it become personal and take a moment to exercise empathy, after you let the smoke clear. Take it from one truly feisty Scottish lass whose ancestry preferred to burn and pillage.

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