There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.
Saint Francis de Sales
I’ve thought a lot about anger. Not the type where someone expresses their disappointment or displeasure to another person in mature way. Not constructive anger. No. Not those types at all.
It seems that in my life I’ve met many an angry person. The explosive types who one steps very carefully around because you never know when they’ll pop their corks. And no, these folks weren’t necessarily angry with me, but some other poor soul too timid or too shocked to stand up for themselves. Or, those who grew up with anger and find it acceptable.
One of my summer jobs in college involved working for a man who had anger issues. I’d type orders for fulfillment by the warehouse BC (before computers). I’d sit at my IBM Selectric typewriter, at my little metal desk and type orders all day. Then, like a nuclear explosion, the owner would burst into the room in a rage. He’d wave an order or an invoice wildly in his hand as he chewed someone but good. Now, as a kid, I acknowledge that I screwed up a few times and that resulted in an engagement of epic proportions. Then the rages ensued because I was stupid enough to look up at the just the wrong time. I tried to make myself disappear.
He was an older man – in his 60’s, tall and slender. Adolescence hadn’t been kind to him as he wore an acne scarred face. (I sometimes wondered how in the world he managed to shave). He could turn on the charm for clients and if things didn’t go well with a sale, he come back and take it out on the staff. He also had another not-so-endearing trait – he spit profusely when he got angry. Once, as he let one of the salesmen have it in front of my desk, I imagined opening an umbrella to protect me from the fallout. It was just nasty. Truly a “serve towels” moment.
The weird part of my employment with this company occurred when at the end of the summer, he asked me to return the next year. I thanked him profusely, swearing to myself that open heart surgery without anesthesia looked infinitely more appealing.
I have a friend who needs to look at what anger has done to her life. We’ve been friends for years. My friend uses anger to control people and situations. That anger, I now know, served to intimidate and shield. She’d berate anyone who didn’t “snap to” as she commanded. Her anger also shielded her from topics she couldn’t or refused to understand. On the other hand, it’s as though she makes up for her anger by giving someone the shirt off her back. Her actions are always kind and generous to erase the scars of her words. What she didn’t count on was that her anger would whip back to bite her and now she’s lost everything because her anger alienated her…isolated her. Just as St. Francis de Sales said, “She feels her anger is just.”
“I’m done with her,” said a mutual friend as I barely got a “Hello” out as I answered the phone. “No, I mean it, she’s making me sick. I just got told off for not calling you about our lunch plans the minute we got off the phone. I know she has her good points; however, I just can’t endure the bad any longer.” I listened to her patiently as she recounted the tongue lashing. The omission wasn’t a big deal as the lunch doesn’t take place until next month. Let’s just say it was ugly.
It’s only a matter of time before the phone rings and I listen to the other side of the story. The side where my friend felt justified with her anger. The questions for me being, “How will I react?” Will I cower and soft pedal the conversation to avoid the ticking bomb? Does my friend need the love and support of her friends as she travels this difficult time?
Yes, but I have to admit to myself that I’m not that kid at the typewriter anymore. We won’t enjoy true friendship if I retreat from my life to disappear. I’ve set limits on what behaviors are acceptable and those that aren’t. So, as she mentions our mutual friends disrespect for her authority, as I’m certain she will, I’ll ask her what happened. It’s clear that she glosses over her bursts of anger to confirm her inappropriate reactions. If she gets loud, I’ll get quieter until she’s forced to listen. But, and this is a big BUT, I won’t allow her venom, called Anger, into my life anymore.
I can see clearly now.