Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anger is an Emotion. Acting out in Anger is a Choice.

I've had two different friends mail me a "Dammit Doll", a punching bag of sorts, in doll form. Objects to take out my bursts of anger upon... outlets to deal with overwhelming thoughts and emotional pain.

If you have known me long enough, it will be hard for you to put your finger on a specific time or incident that made me truly angry. At least angry to a point that you might notice. Truth is, the only thing that really makes my blood boil is seeing a woman or child poorly treated, or someone trying to hurt my daughters or family. God help them. Other than that, I'm a peaceful guy.

My father spent 12-years in the US Navy and demonstrated the self-control of an officer and a gentleman. He trained me to be respectful not just to women, but everyone. Even growing up I asked him about defending myself in junior high. A kid wanted to fight me. Dad said, "Jesus said to 'turn the other cheek'... you've got two cheeks." I learned to take two punches. For some odd reason, that ability combined with a grin on my face seemed to scare the bullies a little. I never did have to fight.

It isn't that I haven't had to deal with anger. I have. 

Years ago, I remember losing my temper and yelling at my little girls when I was overwhelmed, lacking sleep and frustrated. The more I yelled, the more I scared myself. I was angry and stressed, and yelling seemed to let the pressure off. At least it made me feel better.

In 1999, my girl's mother, Debbie, and I traveled back to Indianapolis for a training that we were required to attend so that we could obtain access to a certain home-school curriculum. I wasn't super excited about home schooling, let alone being required to stick to a list of "house rules" while we were using the materials. Debbie asked me to try it for one year. I agreed.

When we arrived at the training center, I was very much out of place. The men wore shirts and ties. The women were nearly all wearing dresses that looked as though they were made with the family sewing machine. We had traveled back in time. I was NOT happy that I was being forced to have to sit with these sheltered country folk and it was seriously cramping my style.

On the second day of the orientation training, the men were required to attend a "For Men Only" morning meeting. Great. 90-minutes of brain-washing aimed at just the fathers. "I can get through this," I convinced myself, as I begrudgingly made my way to the meeting.

It was in that meeting of men, that my life changed forever. 

The short story of that 90-minute lecture was this:

Anger is an emotion. Acting out in anger is a choice. 

The gentleman that was presenting showed in story after story in the Bible, the only one(s) that acted in anger without a negative consequence to their actions was God the Father or Jesus Himself. God/Jesus have self-control of "heavenly proportions", so to speak. When Jesus turned over the "money changers" tables in the temple? No downside. When Moses struck the rock in anger? Big downside.

Without making this into a huge boring sermon, understand the most important part...

Anger is an emotion. Acting out in anger is a choice. We all experience anger... what we do with that anger is so very important. Not just to ourselves, but to those around us. At that very moment when you want to break something in anger, stop and think... is my next action really going to make me feel better?

After that trip to Indianapolis, I found myself making immediate choices that involved self-control. When I got upset, I went for more walks.  Took more deep breaths. Called more friends on the phone. Got more massage. But most importantly, I reminded myself that acting out in anger is a choice.

A pattern of feeling the anger but not losing self control began to become part of who I am.

Fast forward to being told that I needed to lose half of my tongue. Rather than lose my temper, I took a deep breath and... Well, to be honest... I wasn't angry. Years of learning restraint seems to have had an impact on my way of thinking. I have had a number of friends almost get upset with me, telling me, "Why can't you just act normal? It's okay to be pissed! Get angry! Let it out!"  But I'm not angry. I have no need for a "dammit doll."

The fact is, I am blessed. Rather than asking, "God, why me??" I can't stop thinking, "Why not me?" Why should the "stuff of life" happen to everyone else but me? Am I so special that I "don't deserve" things that are random and happen to us all? No... I'm on the same journey that all of us face, and I am thankful that I have been being prepared over the years for this very moment in time.

Regardless of the "stuff" that comes my way... I still am so very richly blessed. I have amazing daughters, parents, sisters and friends. I have a beautiful place to live, a car with a factory warranty, vision to see the beauty in everything, hearing to enjoy amazing music, the sense of touch to take in hugs that warm my heart and take my breath away.

After all, I am a blessed man,

A Blessed Man

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