I’ve always been very slow to anger. I used to joke that you would have to hit me upside the head with a two-by-four to make me mad. I’ve had the experience of realizing, days and weeks after the fact, that someone was nasty to me. And it always surprises me because I just don’t see it when it happens.
Earlier this week I found myself angry twice in the space of an hour. The first time was courtesy of the guy in the red Silverado who did his best to run me off Highway 11. Hope he got where he was going without loss of life or limb. The second time was shortly after as I was walking my German Shepard. Riley usually minds, but the lure of the rabbit running at full speed directly towards Highway 589 was too strong to resist. My screams finally got his attention, and he stopped short of the highway.
I dealt with the first incident by blowing my horn at the Silverado for a full 10 seconds, no doubt disturbing innocent bystanders trying to enjoy their steaks at Sully’s. The second I dealt with by yelling at my poor dog all the way back to the house, where I remembered that I love him and made amends with an extra treat.
I realized later that, in both cases, my anger was born of fear: fear of having a wreck and fear of losing my precious pet. And I realized that it is no wonder that we are all, or at least many of us are, angry. We’re scared. We’re scared of COVID-19, which didn’t even exist this time last year. We’re scared of the polarization between our political parties and what that might lead to. We’re scared of looters and rioters, and the looters and rioters are scared of the police.
All of this fear leads to a whole lot of anger. Anger doesn’t feel good, but it beats the heck out of fear. There is a helpless aspect to fear, and anger at least lets us feel like we are in charge. Anger feels like we can take action, and fear feels like we are cowering.
I’m trying to remember this as I find myself leaning towards feeling angry with people who don’t share my worldview. It can be scary when the things you believe are true are challenged, but anger is counterproductive.
The imminently wise Yoda said it best, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
The next time I feel angry, I am going to take a minute to ask myself what I’m afraid of, and if there isn’t a better way to confront my fear than anger. I probably won’t ask an angry person, “What are you afraid of?” because that most likely would not end well. But I can meet anger with compassion, understanding that it is most likely based in fear.
Christina Pierce is the publisher of The Pine Belt News and Signature Magazine.