"Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were."
- Cherie Carter-Scott
Anger is something I don't like to feel, and it is most certainly not something I enjoy being the recipient of. When I do get angry, I usually don't feel good about it later, and it most certainly makes me feel smaller as Cherie Carter-Scott reflects so eloquently above.
Yet anger has been on my mind and in my heart a lot of late, because it seems I'm constantly surrounded by various forms of anger that cause the same emotion to arise within me, as well. I see it played out on the news, I read it online, and I experience it from people personally. I do my very best not to allow myself to react in like-turn, yet anger is a difficult thing to manage sometimes and we are, after all, only human.
If I'm going to get angry, I try my best to try and "save it" for times of righteous anger against injustice I see in the world. Whether it be the horrific events in Newtown, CT, or the brutal and tragic death of the young woman raped on a bus last month in New Delhi, or any of the myriad forms of injustice, violence, greed and ignorance I see played out in the world every day - these are things for which righteous anger can be an appropriate response. Even Jesus responded in anger at the politics of the Temple regarding the presence of the money changers.
Yet even with that type of anger, one must be careful about the ways in which one decides to articulate it. The expression of anger will always have an impact, and always have consequences. With that truth in mind, I share the following little parable with you:
AN ANGER PARABLE There once was a little boy who had a temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the backyard fence. The first day the boy drove 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to handle his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it. His father suggested that the boy pull out one nail for each day that he was able to handle his temper. The days passed. Eventually the young boy was able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand. He led him to the fence and said, “You have done very well. Now look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things or do things in anger, they leave a scar just like those holes. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say, ‘I’m sorry,’ the wound is still there.”
May we always be mindful of the wounds we inflict when we choose to get angry, for as Aristotle said:
Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody's power, that is not easy.
Rather, may we take a moment to remember the power of patience, forgiveness, and the words of our covenant that speak of the presence of love even amidst disagreement. Let us also remember the truth spoken by Susan Mancotte when she states:
Anger helps strengthen out a problem like a fan helps straighten out a pile of papers.