A murder trial is happening in my hometown. It happened one beautiful summer Sunday morning, when a neighbor shot and killed another neighbor in the middle of the street not more than two miles from where I live. There was a history of them arguing about woodpiles, barking dogs and unkempt yards. Emails the deceased had sent to friends describing how he was going to bully the shooter into submission. The deceased had made it his mission to make sure all of the yards and homes in the neighborhood were maintained to his standards, sometimes to the extent of mowing lawns he felt were overgrown. Imagine his rage at the person who belligerently refused to comply. Imagine the rage of the shooter, constantly being badgered and publicly taunted.
Anger can be a natural, healthy emotion. It is a response to actual or perceived emotional or physical pain. It can be used to express frustration and vent pent up feelings. But it can easily become destructive. Anger temporarily distracts us from the pain that is behind it. It makes us feel less vulnerable to be angry, because anger shows aggression. Someone has wronged us, and by God they should be held accountable. The greater the underlying pain or feeling of having been wronged, the more explosive the anger can become.
We can’t control the behavior of those around us. We can, however, control how we respond. The more controlling we try to be, the more we set ourselves up for anger. Sometimes being in control means not being controlling. There will always be jerks in this world. There will always be people who drive too fast, cut ahead of us in line, don’t care about their property as much as we care about ours, dress in ways we find silly or inappropriate. There will always be those who disagree with our religious or political views, who cheer for an opposing team, who like to listen to loud music or behave in ways that are rude or insulting. Sometimes it helps to realize that they most likely are not behaving that way just to irritate us, personally. If we depersonalize their behavior, it’s easier to walk away. Always, always we need to ask ourselves, “Is this really worth it?”