Anger lesson #1

Being able to consistently control or stifle your anger is not a sign that you’re emotionally healthy.

It’s not a sign that you don’t have much of a temper, or that you don’t care, or that you’re super mature.

It’s a sign that you’ve learned, one way or another, to exercise great restraint over how you outwardly express your anger.

Sometimes this restraint is good.

It’s good and helpful to be able to control your words when you’re angry, so that you can communicate the cause of your distress without insulting somebody or somebody’s Mama. When I see grown people flailing around and insulting each other over, say, a fender bender, I think, “More restraint would be good here.” When I hear a parent belittle their child over a simple mistake, same story. More restraint would be good in these situations.

Sometimes, however, this restraint is not so good.

If you’re unable to express your valid anger over injustice, injury, insulting treatment, or behavior that you don’t appreciate, then you set yourself up for a repeat of it.

No, it’s not your fault that people behave badly. But people do behave badly, or, more often, carelessly. And if they carelessly step on your toes or stomp on your soul, it’s up to you to say, “Hey, don’t do that. I don’t like it. I won’t accept it.”

Anger helps you to speak up.

If you ignore the anger, stuff it down, stifle it, and never express it, it is most likely that the person will keep up the same type of behavior.

Maybe they don’t even know it hurt you. Maybe they know but don’t really care. Either way, you keep getting stomped on.

There are a couple of ways this situation can play out.

Scenario 1: this person isn’t someone close to you, so you fade out and avoid them, and in that way you avoid the behavior that hurt you without ever having to express your anger about it. Okay. Sometimes this is the easiest, most logical scenario.

Scenario 2: this person is someone close to you, someone you care about, and their repetitive bad behavior bothers you and hurts you, but you don’t know how to express your anger about it, so you just stuff it, and the stuffing it does nothing to solve or alleviate the anger, so the anger just gets packed down, smushed in, pressurized and now it’s not a big boiling pot of anger, oh no: it’s much, much worse than that, it’s a super-sized steel tank of super-condensed anger under very high pressure, and at some point that tank will not be able to hold any more, and it won’t boil over, it will EXPLODE. And it will not be pretty.