Monday, May 11, 2015

How To Deal If You're Struggling With Anger

.. By the way, if you are viewing this post in a reader, click over to my blog to view the new Page I've added (found underneath the title of my blog)~ my articles by subject. This includes my articles since 2013 that I've written here, for Catholic Mom, and for Real Housekeeping, for the first time, categorized by subject!  It is still a work-in-progress. ;)

How do you deal if you're struggling with anger? And no, the answer isn't donuts.  Or chocolate. Or ice-cream. The other day, something happened that had me completely discouraged and disillusioned.   It got me thinking about angry outbursts, and why they happen in the first place.

imagine with me...
My family had just pulled out of the parking lot - I will not say exactly where, but let’s just pretend it might have been … ahem… either after church or after school. I pulled the van into the street adjacent to the parking lot. I wasn't paying attention, and I accidentally bumped the car in front of me, as we were waiting in a long line behind a red light.

I knew that as soon as it happened, that it wasn't hard enough to cause damage, but it was probably hard enough to scare the people in front of me a little bit.

What happened next shocked me.  In front of me was a man - a Grandfather- in his convertible. He was a gentlemanly type (or so I thought), with his young grandson. My daughter recognized his grandson as a little boy who had just received his First Communion, no less.

When I bumped him, (I can't really say "hit" him, because it wasn't that hard), he acted like something much worse had happened.  He got out in the middle of the street and threw his arms in the air, just staring me down as the light in front of us turned green and all of the cars in front of him continued to drive.

He then proceeded to curse at me, get back into his car (blocking traffic, in the middle of the road)- but not drive it- and turn around, giving me dirty looks.  His grandson followed suit, giving me dirty looks, just like his Grandpa.  The Grandpa seemed to have no problem teaching his grandson to do the same thing as him. I just sat there, in shock. And in the moment, (or a few minutes after the fact), I had to call my husband to start crying on behalf of all of my shaken nerves and deep, deep discouragement.  In my defense, my girls didn’t even notice or mention the “accident.” So I know - and I have four children, under the age of 7, who were eye-witnesses- to say that it was definitely a bump, and not a “hit.”


a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong;wrath; ire.

My first reaction, before he decided to curse at me, was to apologize. But in the wake of his display of outrageous amounts of anger, I couldn't say or do anything. I just went numb, and I remained silent. I think I was in shock.

There were so many things that came to my mind.

First of all- did I deserve that?  The cursing, the dirty looks, the overreaction?

No, I don't think so. I assume he was hoping to get a little money out of the "bump," and so he played it up, big time. I also wonder if he justified it to himself by saying, "I'm going to get this rage out of my system, then I'll worry about the consequences later."

Second of all- what happened to a Christian witness?

Seriously? I was so incredibly disillusioned that someone in my community would act that way, pretending that it was an appropriate way to act in front of his grandson and our family. I  still feel like an outsider to Catholicism at times, simply because I’m a recent convert. I'll be honest and admit that I wondered: Is this what the Catholic church is really like? Do people think they can curse, because they'll just turn around and go to Confession for it? What about pre-emptive action.... what about mercy and love? And again, what about modeling a “Christian witness?”

Third, this sort of anger comes from your heart.

When I see an explosion of anger like that, and whenever I struggle with my own occasional bouts of anger, I always think about the book The War of Words by Paul Tripp. (See also: How People Change, a Bible Study book).  Tripp talks about what happens to a heart full of thorns when it is knocked out of its comfort zone.

Tripp teaches, again and again, that if you knock a heart that is filled with the peace of Christ, it will spill out peace, and grace for others. On the other hand, if you knock a heart filled with thorns, it will spill out self-righteousness, ugliness, and anger. Another way to put it? If your roots are peace, your fruit will be peace.

I know for myself that if I’ve been seeking to grow in my faith, then I exude peace to my kids, people in public, my friends, and all of those around me.  It's an extraordinary grace from the HS.  If I have had a tendency to let prayer, or church, or obedience to God’s will (or all of the above) fall by the wayside, I tend to exude something much more nasty. People who can handle anger really well impress me. Those I know who seem to exude peace are often those closest to God (nuns, monks, priests, missionaries, faithful apostles and servants of God).

But you and I don't have to be the apostolate to be peaceful!  If you or someone you know is struggling with anger, layperson and clergy alike, get your hands on a copy of a book by Paul Tripp. The philosophies coming out of CCEF changed my life when I was a new Mom, and I truly believe could change yours' too. Don't wait until it's too late, and something happens to knock your thorny heart out of its comfort zone.  Don't wait until you can make it right in Confession. Take pre-emptive action, and choose love instead of anger.

I will say one last thing. I could never, ever imagine my father, or my father-in-law, responding to a situation that way... ever.  I know that they wouldn't want to spread that type of bad example or tarnish their witness to a lost world. I'm sure of it! When I was growing up, I could hardly even imagine my Dad losing his temper, nor have I ever- in my life- seen him "blow up" out of anger. I remember him *once* giving me a stern look when I got into a real - and I mean horrible- accident, that ended up being totally my fault. That might shock you, but if you know him, it doesn’t. He is a very peaceful, humble person with the gift of a very even temperament. As is my father-in-law.

Imagine how ridiculous this scene was for me, considering the amazing examples I had all through growing up?

Now my question for you is.... if something like that happened to you, how would you respond?

cross-posting at the ACWB


Anonymous said...

Honestly, if that happened to me I would either 1) yell back; 2) burst into tears; or 3) both. Happily, that's never happened--in the cases when I've been at fault in an accident, even ones which caused damage, the people have all been very kind about it and I've always tried to do the same because accidents happen to us all.

Tacy said...

I know, right?! Often, when I'm in a heated battle of the wills, with one of my kids or my husband I do lose my head, or my temper. But I just can't imagine that sort of "letting it all loose" in the middle of traffic. wooh.

Christine said...

Wow. I'm thinking it was best you didn't say anything. I'm pretty sure you couldn't have said anything to make him calm down or improve the situation.

I had an incident happen recently that I am still floored about. It was on the sidelines of a kids' soccer game, no less. I know keeping my mouth shut was the best thing to do, but man, it was really hard to do it.

I like the way analogy of what's on the inside spills out when we are hit. It's very true. It sounds like you were blessed with a great example in your father.

Tacy said...

Thanks for the comment, Christine. It can be so hard when these things happen in public. By God's grace, we have to overcome the temptation and stay quiet. It can be so hard, though!