August 17, 2018
Perhaps my perception is colored by growing older and becoming more reflective, but I’ve been noticing how easily people get angry. I usually listen to sports talk radio on my way home from school each evening. I am a big NFL fan and I like to stay current on injuries, predictions, good games on the schedule for the next Sunday, etc. Since the stations are local, invariably much of the talk is centered on our hometown Colts.
People who call in are angry. Not disappointed, but angry. They talk loudly and curse (or I am assuming that is what’s going on when I hear the bleep). You can just picture the veins standing out on their temples and necks. They rage about who should be fired, and that player sucks, and those people don’t know what they’re doing. Any response from the host that questions what the caller has said is met with the receiver being slammed down.
A woman in line behind me at a fast food restaurant recently was agitated that we were standing in line and there was only one register open. I was third in line and she was fourth. She had been there all of one minute when I could see the anger building.
“Doesn’t this just infuriate you?” she asked me.
“Not really,” I responded.
She seemed genuinely surprised at my lack of anger. “Why not?” she demanded, now apparently angry at my lack of anger.
“Life’s too short,” I said.
“Well, you’re right there,” she said, pointing to her watch. “And I have important things to do.” I am pretty sure she was implying that I do not have important things to do.
“You’re welcome to step ahead of me,” I offered.
She stepped ahead of me without a word of acknowledgment and stood there for another minute. Her phone rang. She listened for a bit, then told whoever had called her, “These ***holes have one ****ing register open for all of these people!” (By “all these people” she meant the four of us.) She couldn’t take it anymore. She walked out of the restaurant yelling loudly, “Unbelievable!” Total elapsed time from her entry into the restaurant to her exit was just under five minutes.
In my former life as an Athletic Director, I once had to remove a fan from a 6th grade CYO basketball game because he was so angry about a call one of the officials had made. He yelled obscenities, taunted, and threatened him. Even as I escorted the enraged man out, he yelled to the official that he would “be waiting in the parking lot” for him.
When I was a head football coach way back when, I had some parents complain that I was too passive – that I needed to “get angry.” I needed to “yell at the officials more” or “get up in my players’ faces” in order to be effective. They interpreted my calm demeanor as a lack of passion. I guess the assumption was that if I was angry more, and yelled more; then we would win more. (It should be noted for the record that it was my lack of football knowledge that caused us to lose, not my lack of anger.)
I wish I could say that my calm, peaceful attitude is a result of the knowledge of how truly blessed I am, so when things go wrong it is of little concern. I wish I could say it is because I see the good in everyone and recognize that we all have faults, so I understand when I see those faults on display. I wish I could say that it is because I am a good, Christian man who knows that anger can be hurtful to others and destructive to relationships. I hope that some or all of these reasons are partially responsible for my calm, peaceful attitude.
But the fact is that I am also a practical person. I have learned from experience that anger is not productive. Anger will not make the Colts perform better, or make lines at fast food restaurants go away, or make basketball officials get every call correct.
When it comes to education, getting angry with your child does not help him understand your point of view and getting angry with teachers does not help them see your side of things more clearly. Teachers getting angry with students does not help them learn the material better.
These strategies don’t work; just as getting angry at the traffic won’t help move the cars along. Anger is not only unproductive, but also counterproductive. Maybe strategies such as compassion, patience, understanding, forgiveness, and tolerance are worth a try.
Think about how you respond to the challenges in your life. How often do you find yourself getting angry? Is it working for you?