We have all felt anger at one point or another in our lives. It is such a basic emotion that it is one of the lead characters in Pixar’s Inside Out.
In the proper context, anger can lead to great things if channelled well. Angry people can band together to change a rotten or corrupt system. Angry people can create amazing cures for debilitating illnesses they saw their loved ones suffer through. Righteous anger is an excellent tool to drive change.
However, anger can easily devolve into rage. We all have felt it.
I know I have.
My worst bout with rage happened a few years after college. I was working at a major corporation at the time and already in a relationship with Hubby S for almost 5 years.
At the time there were no handy cellphones yet. I had a private line in my room and a beeper strapped into my belt. That was the best way to keep in touch with Hubby S after work and on weekends.
One day, out of the blue, I received a call at 3AM. Who the heck would call at that ungodly hour?! Thinking it was an emergency about Hubby S, I jumped out of bed, and lunged for the phone…. Only to be greeted by heavy breathing… And then the caller hung up on me.
It is hard for me to fall back asleep after suddenly waking in the middle of the night. At first, I thought it was just an unfortunate wrong number. Then it happened again after a few nights. Then again. Then again. Until it was happening consistently every few days.
Then the caller escalated the harassment. She would call regularly at 3AM and suddenly blurt out in a whisper:
“Do you know where your boyfriend is?”
“Watch your back.”
“I’m watching you.”
Just when I didn’t think it could get worse, it did.
“I just f***** S.“
I was in tears… Terrorized regularly at a very vulnerable hour of the day.
I also started wondering aloud to Hubby S if he is guilty. He had to defend himself multiple times. We speculated if the caller had a fatal attraction on him or something. He kept insisting he had no idea who it was.
It went on for a few months. We finally got caller ID and when she struck again, Hubby S called her number to confront my harasser. Turns out it was my office mate’s jealous girlfriend. A woman I actually knew casually as she worked in the same company as I did but in a different division.
It turns out she decided to harass me because of jealousy from some statement her boyfriend said about me. She gave me one last call to explain herself and “apologize”.
I was so relieved that it was over that I just said OK.
I put down the phone and that’s when the anger seeped in. She wasn’t sorry, she just got caught! I couldn’t sleep.. I was physically shaking with anger. I couldn’t stop thinking that I wasn’t able to take revenge!!
The thoughts of getting satisfaction consumed me. I was making plans that I would get her fired since I had close friends in upper management. I had fantasies that I would destroy her career by bringing it up to HR and have her blackballed so she will have difficulty finding a job. I wanted to do PR… anything to hurt her.
When I told Hubby S, I got an unexpected response. He told me to just let it go.
Initially, I was furious! Why aren’t you taking my side?! We are both victims here!
He calmly asked me what would I accomplish. I exclaimed: I would get revenge for the weeks of torture! Surely, my reaction is completely justified.
He explained that I was justified in my anger but it isn’t a good idea because this woman clearly has some sort of psychological problem. If she is able to sustain harassing me for months due to some statement I had nothing to do with, can you imagine what she is capable of doing if I decided to fight her head on? It’s not a good idea to take on the crazy.
He was right.
If I take on someone with clear psychological problems, the fight would be going on long after I am no longer angry. With her obvious lack of empathy and clear psychopathic tendencies, she would be capable of doing things that I can’t even imagine doing. Going after her has the possibility of snowballing and taking over my life.
I finally had the crazy lady off my back.. why poke the beast?
Instead of going through with my elaborate plans, I just unfriended her boyfriend, gave the two of them a wide berth, turned the other way when I saw her coming, and let it go.
I am so glad that I had someone to stop me from acting on my anger because usually, it’s just not worth escalating the fight. In the heat of the moment, we don’t see the possible consequences of our quest for revenge or an ambiguous form of “satisfaction”. The angry haze makes us blind.
Some people around us would egg us on in our anger. For most people, it’s just easier to agree with you rather than risk your anger for being “unsupportive”. For some people, it’s something they would do themselves…. or it is exciting to be in the middle of some drama.
The voice of reason is rare and silent. Few people will be brave enough or care for you deep enough to venture into your angry haze and talk you out of doing things you will regret in the future.
Once the transgression against us has stopped, there is little logical reason for our anger to continue. In reality though, the anger lingers long after the action that triggered it has ceased. Sometimes,the anger even escalates as we replay the act over and over in our heads.
It is highly possible that in our anger, we do things that will do more damage to ourselves and our reputation than to the object of our anger. We can clearly see how anger can get out of hand in road rage cases where something as mundane as getting cut off in traffic can progress to murder.
Anger is a very normal and very human reaction. There is nothing wrong with feeling anger.
We should be careful not to let anger consume us but this is easier said than done.
Since we are all human, we all have moments of weakness. In cases like this, there is great value in surrounding ourselves with people who will keep us grounded and logical when we need to be. We need to find people who will draw us away from the edge and keep us close until the rage passes and we are on the path to forgiveness.
We need to find people who are willing to save us from ourselves and keep them close.
There is a lot of wisdom in the Bible:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — Matthew 5:9
Do you have peacemakers in your lives?