I’m not exactly sure when it happened. I’d like to point a finger somewhere or at someone, because blaming would make me feel better. Blaming would allow me to tell myself that it’s not a part of me or that I don’t have a part in it. Something has changed in America though and it’s ugly. We’ve become a nation of mad, angry, self-righteous people. We yell. We scream. We type in all caps. We wave our arms and hands at drivers and we rage out on our “friends” on social media. I know some would like to blame this election season but y’all, this has been brewing for a while. We would not be allowing this election year to be so nasty if the subculture of rage hadn’t already crawled into our being.
I went to Wal-Mart today. I know. Why would I chose to do such a thing on a school holiday? I’ll tell you why. Toilet bowl cleaner. I’ve got six toilets in this house and they all get used. Mama needs her some deals when it comes to cleaning supplies. Anyway, the kids and I managed to make it through the store fairly quickly, stocking our cart with cleaners and dusters and an Iron Man t-shirt because, well, Iron Man. We got to the check out and shockingly enough, there were only three lanes open. I know this surprises you because Wal-Mart and Target always have enough checkers for the shoppers in the store. (Make sure your computer reads the sarcasm font there.)
There was an older couple in line ahead of us. My friend Denise would say, “Old like me?” and I would say, “No. Old like for real.” They were old. Gray. Shriveled. And super cute. The woman had placed her purse on the conveyor belt, I’m assuming to mark the stopping point of items for the person in front of her and the starting point of her own things. I don’t know where the little belt marker was but it wasn’t there. So she used her purse. The checker, scanning items mindlessly and fast, scanned the last item of the person ahead and grabbed the woman’s purse and attempted to scan it.
The old lady ahead of me grabbed her purse back and said, “Oh, no. That’s mine.”
To which, I kid you not, the checker said, “No. It’s hers. If you want a purse you’ll need to go get one.”
My daughter, watching the whole thing unfold, looked at me as if to say,”What just happened?”
The old lady ahead of me starts yelling, “That’s my purse! It’s got my stuff inside! Give it back!”
And the checker says, (I swear I can’t make this up),”Prove it!”
So the woman opens her purse and shows that it is truly, in fact, her purse.
And her old man husband never flinched.
When we got to the truck my son asked what the people were fighting about and I just sighed. I told him I think some people have so much anger in their hearts that they don’t know what to do but let it spill out on other people.
I think there’s more of us with that issue than we’d like to acknowledge.
Once upon a time, when my kids were really little, they were having some anger issues with each other. There was lots of fighting, lots of name calling. and dear Jesus, so much tattling. I decided one day to sit them down and make a list of all the things that are worthy of our anger; things where if we were to witness them happening, we should yell or scream or throw a fit.
Our list included things like:
- Kicking puppies
- Picking other peoples boogers
- Stealing toys or houses
- Cutting someone else’s artwork out
You know, things that make little kids mad. I can’t help but think that maybe it’s time for America to sit down and make a list. Be real about it. Make a list of the injustices that honestly and truly mean something. And then, instead of throwing a fit, say a prayer and ask God how He would have us react. I suspect that He will rarely answer with, “Go to your Facebook page and type in all caps with lots of exclamation points.” I’m pretty sure He won’t say,”Yell out your window in car line at the school and shake your fist at the other moms.”
He might. I don’t claim to know the mind and heart of God to the fullest.
I feel like He will suggest things like, “Give more hugs” and “Share more food” and “Turn the other cheek” because God tends to lean more towards the loving side and less towards the “let’s have a scream out in the check out lane at Wal-Mart” type.
A few years ago I had to come face to face with my own anger issues. I’m not claiming to have them all under control but I have taken HUGE strides towards being a gentler person. I rarely yell anymore. I work hard at letting the small things go; the battles that aren’t worth fighting. I don’t hold on to things that are completely out of my control…okay, I’m still working on some big things but the little things that are out of my control – easy. The big questions I ask myself daily, when deciding to engage rage or not are:
- Is the energy I spend on this anger issue worth it? If I’m going to be short on energy for my family later today because I spent energy on this angry thing, will I look back and approve?
- Is my anger going to make a difference in the situation? If I say something, yell something, type something in all caps, will I make a difference for the better in the world? Will my anger bring safety or bring justice?
If I can answer “yes” to those questions then I can let the rage fly. But even with that, I’m learning to temper my rage in a way that makes it more receivable. Can my anger be displayed calmly and rationally? Because it’s more palatable that way and generally brings change faster.
Here’s what I know for sure. Kindness almost always wins. Showing love, even when it’s not earned and especially when it’s not deserved, is always the best way. These things have nothing to do with being a door mat and everything to do with being a better person. Gentleness is better received than rage and a soft word is taken in and heard far more often than a snarky response.
So maybe this evening we all turn off the news and shut down the social media and take a walk. Maybe we wave at our neighbors – even the ones with the political signs in their yards for the candidate we despise. Perhaps we bake a loaf of bread and share it with a friend or pour a glass of hearty red wine for our spouse. Let’s all take a breath. Let’s inhale peace and exhale the nasty. And let’s all agree that Wal-Mart needs more open lanes.