Anger

Last weekend, as I watched the nightly news with my Dad, I saw something that made my blood boil. In response to the release of the new Nike athletic shoes, shoppers in Florida and some other places had begun rioting. It infuriated me and I posted the following update to my Facebook status:

“It’s REALLY hard for me to reconcile the reality that there are people rioting in Florida over overpriced Nike’s when I’ve seen children walk through trash-strewn streets in Africa wearing NO shoes. It makes me unspeakably sad and angry.”

It ended up being a pretty great conversation and I found that I wasn’t the only one reacting that way. But one comment, in particular, caught my eye:

“I’m with you. Anger doesn’t help though…”

The part that grabbed me was: “Anger doesn’t help.”

I beg to differ.

Anger does help when it moves you to reasonable, responsible action.

When I was in college, my friends Rick and Robert used to laughingly say that the one way to get me to do anything was to get me angry. Somehow, anger seems to be the emotion that burns my engine hot enough to accelerate. Normally one who shrinks from confrontation and conflict, when I get angry, I suddenly become a rabid mama-bear defending her cubs.

So, I especially love what my friend goes on to say in his comment:

“My dream used to be to buy a Maserati. Then I went to Uganda, and now my dream is to sell enough coffee to change the world. My eyes were opened and my world changed.”

He was angry and his anger moved him to action. Seems to me that his anger is helping. It changed him. It’s changing Uganda. And it’s changing the world.

I can do the same. I can take my anger towards this ridiculously selfish event last weekend and use it to change the world. In just less than 90 seconds, online I found at least three charities that I can give to, to make sure those barefoot children have shoes. (I found Soles4Souls, TOMS shoes, and a local thrift store that donates all of their proceeds to missions. What can you find in 90 seconds?)

But this isn’t just about shoes.

After that post went up, I thought of all of the other times I get angry and it isn’t productive. Sometimes my anger can be destructive. I’m not really the type that takes my anger out on others. I turn my anger inward and beat myself up or stress myself out. I replay situations over and over in my head, castigating myself for what I did wrong or how I could have done it differently, even when I know that I really did the only thing I could. I lose sleep and lie awake, sometimes not realizing why I’m too keyed up to sleep until days—or weeks—later.

At those times when anger is burning me out instead of igniting a productive fire, what do I do?

For me, one of the most important things is being willing to admit that I’m angry. I grew up on the tail-end of a culture of sweet, Southern women who never admit when they’re angry. In fact, they usually don’t admit any feelings that are considered negative. They never admit that they’re angry, tired, sad, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Whenever you ask them how they are, they’re always “fine” or “good.”

If you’ve never met one of these women in person, watch the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” and pay attention to the Kathy Bates character. That’s exactly what they look like. And just like Kathy Bates’ character, when they finally admit they’re angry, they can be pretty dangerous.

I’m one of those people. I can be pushed and pushed and pushed and I’ll never tell you—or myself—that I’m really upset. But when I finally reach my breaking point, it’s going to be quick, hot, ugly, and everyone within a fifteen mile radius is going to suffer.

The good news is that I’m recovering from this disorder. Over the last few years, I’ve been through a healthy round of counseling. And I’ve found that a few of my friends don’t mind letting me vent. In fact, recently, I’ve noticed that some of my friends (shout out to Jason, Scott, and Tim!) get positively tickled when I get wrought up about something. I’m beginning to realize that anger isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s just something to look at, learn from, and let go.

What is anger like for you? Are you quick-tempered or are you a ticking-time-bomb like me? Is your anger productive or destructive? How do you deal with anger?

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. Kerri (Earringopia) says:

    I used to be the other way around. When something upset me, I tended to get fired up by anger first and then think later. I found this was not the way to make friends and influence people. Thank goodness as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to think first, get angry if necessary, and then take any action necessary. However, I’ve not forgotten the importance of having youthful passion about issues that can make things happen. It’s really one of the best parts of being young, and when I see it in younger people now, I know they’re on the right track to solving problems and making changes in their lives and in the world.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Kerri, I know I don’t know you well, but that surprises me about you. But I definitely believe that you’re capable of passion. I’m so glad you came and shared here! Thank you!

  3. “Anger is a gift” – Rage Against The Machine

    God gave you anger, but like any other gift, it can be wasted. Thanks for the shout out Sarah, excellent post as per usual!

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, Word, my friend. Word. Thank you! :-)

  5. Anita Salter says:

    Sarah,
    Buddy stumbled upon your blog today and we were talking about it tonight so I looked it up. Just wanted to tell you that you write beautifully and that I have enjoyed reading through your site tonight. The anger thing is a tough one and if pressed I’d have to say I’m also guilty of letting it fester and build up. Can’t say which is better, letting it build up or flying off the handle with no warning; neither of which is the productive kind. Guess it is best when you learn from it and let it go.
    Anita

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