Monday, November 12, 2012

Anger: The ‘Feel-Good Emotion’?

A couple of weeks ago I watched a man in a drugstore launch into a tirade after discovering he had been sold the wrong brand of cigarettes and the manager wouldn’t let him exchange them for his preferred brand. The manager said it was because of some law, but the smoker wasn’t having any of it.

Frankly, I think any brand of cigarettes is the wrong brand, but that’s a different subject.

Anyway, I feared the customer would go “postal.” (Can you go postal in a drugstore?) He was mad, and his voice’s decibel level indicated he needed everyone within a two-mile radius to know his displeasure.

Can you guess that Florida Gators' head coach
Will Muschamp isn't happy? (BleacherReport photo)
Then Saturday, watching the Georgia-Florida football game, I saw the Gators’ head coach Will Muschamp almost pop a carotid artery as he berated one of his players for a mistake. I couldn’t lip-read what he was saying (and probably didn’t want to know), but the grimaces Muschamp’s face made must have taken hours in front of a mirror to perfect.

I don’t remember what provoked the coach’s anger, but at the time I wondered, “Mothers, is that the face of a man into whose tender, loving care you’ll entrust your sons while still in their formative years?”

These days everyone seems angry about something. “Tolerance” people pour waves of angry intolerance toward people they consider intolerant. TV and radio talk show commentators voice anger toward anyone not sharing their views. Parents get mad at their kids, and kids are angry at their parents.

Terrorists, of course, express hatred toward those that don’t share their ideologies. But even in private homes, anger can create terror between husband and wife.

Workplaces are hardly immune from angry displays. Furious bosses spew venom on employees that displease them, and frustrated employees increasingly vocalize and demonstrate their anger for a variety of reasons.

Why do we all seem so quick to display angry feelings? Does it make us feel good?

I’ve been prone to anger myself, but time has taught me the wisdom of choosing to not let off steam. Like a rapidly forming tornado, outbursts of anger appear and subside quickly, but leave fearsome paths of damage in their wake.

Maybe that’s why the Bible, particularly the book of Proverbs, has much to say about anger and its dangers:
“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” (Proverbs 12:16).
“As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife” (Proverbs 26:21).
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11).

In the classic film “Network,” actor Peter Finch’s newsroom character urges viewers to go to their windows, open them and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Well, that might make us feel better, venting pent-up emotions, but what does it solve?

Better to follow this advice: “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel” (Proverbs 15:18). Angry words and actions aren’t the path to peace.

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