Anger: it’s a wild roller coaster ride.
I’ll give you a personal example. A few years back, I had a pretty ugly falling out with someone that I deeply cared about. In what I can only describe as the classic case of injustice served, I went on an anger binge. Anything, any word, any image related to that person literally made me feel like throwing up. Mention that person’s name and I would start ranting and raving, often listing and re-listing all the wrongs I had endured. The anger went as far as giving me physical symptoms: shaking, hyperventilating, and headaches. To say that I was resentful is an understatement; my anger had literally taken over my life.
Anger is one of those emotions that can feel like a best friend cheering you on in the beginning only for it to turn into an ugly, controlling monster down the road. While anger is initially prompted by the feeling of having been wronged, it is kept alive by the ego’s exclusive desire to be right, often without of an examination how other factors could have contributed to the negative outcome. Like a pressure cooker, anger can only simmer for so long before exploding into bigger, sometimes unfixable messes.
Writing this brings back to mind a powerful lesson I learned while volunteering with a community based organization called Woman2Woman. The main aim of Woman2Woman was to help pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers graduate high school by pairing them with mentors. These mentors would serve as their emotional support by encouraging them to work through their chaotic lives with the focus placed on getting an education. When I was going through mentor training I learnt a lot of valuable life lessons, one of the most powerful being the concept of ‘AM/FM’.
Think of thoughts in terms of a radio-a tool which enables a constant output of information. Depending on what dial you set your radio to, you can program your mind (radio) to:
‘arrested movement’ (AM)-thoughts that represent a state of being stuck in negativity
‘forward movement’ (FM)-thoughts that represent a state of positive flow, a moving on.
Basically, the radio station you choose will also affect your dance. AM? Stuck. FM? Forward. In my case, I was jamming to the wrong station…..until the radio broke, that is.
I was a mess, one with an off and on button that was easily pushed by external forces. With my thoughts constantly living in the past, I would lament at my ill fortune and turn a blind eye to the blessings that were already present in my life. Anger not only consumed me, it paralyzed me and kept me away from experiencing life joyfully. One day, I was having a conversation that would have ordinarily sent me spiraling downward. What I felt instead was an emotional weariness. Like a farmer who comes home after a hard day’s work, I just wanted to put my heavy tools down and rest. I wanted to disconnect myself from the usual toxic reaction. I wanted my life back. So I did the only thing I could think of at the time: I went on my knees and asked God to teach me how to forgive.
You see, forgiveness has a funny way of freeing us from our self imposed prison. It gave me joy and a forward-looking perspective. When you forgive, you are in essence swallowing a potent multivitamin that makes you a stronger person. It’s not the oak tree kind of strong that breaks when smacked by strong winds. Rather, it is like the humble blade of grass that bends to the wind and survives in its flexible approach to all of life’s seasons. By forgiving, I had a future once again.
That’s right-forgiveness gave me my groove back.
Since my newfound freedom, I still have the occasional Gollum-esque whispers of ‘let’s be angry’, but I gently push them aside. Using the words made famous by the latest Youtube sensation ‘Sweet Brown’: “ain’t nobody got time for that”.