All of us sit on a powderkeg of emotions. The worst of all is anger.
Anger throws bricks through windows. It speeds up behind another driver, draws a gun, and starts shooting. It slaps a wife, batters children, and burns forests. It holds a keyboard as it types bitter all-cap letters into Twitter or Facebook. Harsh words wound.
All are the results of expressing anger.
James, the brother of Jesus, knew that anger expressed is corrosive.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19–20)
Anger comes in two flavors.
Sometimes, it smolders. An irritation gets pushed down but never disappears. It is like a house fire that still has a glowing ember. It lays there, and then, at the worst time, it explodes. Anger unaccounted for leaves the aroma of the fire not yet put out.
The other flashes. In the Pixar movie Inside Out, anger sits in the background until irritated. Then, he becomes a blowtorch. That’s flash anger. It takes to Facebook or Twitter to “show them” their error. The problem with flash fires is they scorch and destroy without warning.
It is an emotion that rises from hurt or fear. The feeling of anger is uncontrollable but it can dissipate, with the right approach.
Imagine if we brick-throwing mobs went home or sign-toting fanatics pushing against fences controlled their anger response.
You can learn, as Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower did. Susan Eisenhower, Ike’s granddaughter, tells about the passions of the war hero and president. Yet, he appeared calm and serene behind the broad grin and jocular nature.
It did not come naturally.
It started at an early age. One Halloween, Dwight wanted to go to town with his older brothers to go trick or treating. But his father knew he needed a little more supervision than that, so he refused to let him go.
Dwight got so angry that he beat his fists against a tree so hard that he passed out. Once he revived, his mother took him home and made him go to his room to cool off. Then, she sat down on the bed beside him, bandaging the wounds caused by his outburst.
“You know Dwight, the only person that got hurt was you. And your own lack of control caused it. Remember, when we are angry, the person who gets damaged the most is you.”
Dwight stewed for a minute as his mother watched and waiting.
Then, she closed her little lecture about self-control with a citation from Proverbs.
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
As Eisenhower grew, he learned to control the beast to subdue it.
As an avid journal-keeper, he would write his observations and piques that arose. Soldiers of all ranks had their mistakes cataloged. Pages contained pointed descriptions of political opponents who rankled the president.
At other times, he would write the name of the person he wished to skewer on a piece of paper and place it in a chair. He would then pace around that chair, emptying the acid he wanted to say to him face-to-face. I can imagine what his conversation with Senator Joseph McCarthy must have sounded lfike!
But one of Eisenhower’s strategy was ingenious.
When a cabinet member, Congressman, or a political opponent irritated him, he knew what to do. He took a piece of paper, then wrote out of all the venom his heart had. When finished, he read it, crumpled up the sheet, and put it into the bottom drawer of his Resolute desk.
His secretary had standing instructions. Each afternoon before leaving, she was to empty the drawer.
Each day, Eisenhower “threw his rage” out of his life.
It doesn’t come easy, but you can learn a more effective way.
Recognize your own anger. Own it. Anger is your emotion, not what someone did to “make you angry.” And once you recognize it, take positive steps.
You can copy Eisenhower’s methods or have one of your own. But rage scars other people. As Eisenhower’s mother pointed out to the boy with broken hands, it hurts you more than it hurts others.
Anger is not worth the toll. Deal with it and move one. Once you do, life will be better for you and all those around you.
As one man said, “Become angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Don’t put yourself in that position. Take the time to explore yourself. Find the answers that work for you and your personality.
Let it be said of you, “I never saw you angry.” But you will know better.