From the Braver Institute
Anger and being angry have been frequent subjects of discussion recently. There have been no situations where anyone—myself included—has been angry and therefore brought about the discussion. The conversations have simply and organically turned to that topic as conversations are want to do and coincidentally it has happened a few times lately.
This talk of anger brought about a little bit of introspection and reflection on the way I used to be. While I may never have been what you might consider an angry person, I did have a very, very short fuse, and when I got angry, I did it right.
When I became angry, things became broken. Broken things are typically what these discussions of anger focused on. Without going into the cause of my anger I did mention the time where I became instantly angry and drove the beer bottle in my hand straight down into the top of the bar I was standing at. The top of this bar had been coated with a clear epoxy that had stood up to years of abuse. Countless cigarettes that had fallen out of ashtrays and who knows how many bar fights had done nothing to harm it, but I managed to put a hole in the top of it with a beer bottle. I also managed to cut my hand pretty badly.
On another occasion, with my hands in the ten o’clock and two o’clock position on the steering wheel (like all good drivers used to do) I folded that steering wheel almost in half by bending it back toward me. I highly discourage this while driving. Trust me. I didn’t know that steering wheels could bend. I managed to sort-of straighten it back out, but it never was the same again.
The lawn mower I threw across the yard was never the same again either.
I guess the good thing—if there is a good thing here—is that every time I have been angry, I have been angry at another person. Fortunately for them (and probably me too) I directed that rage at something other than that person.
A short fuse is something that runs in the paternal side of my family. My dad had one and perhaps his dad did too. To look at me now one might say that I have mellowed with age. I’m not so sure that this is the case. I think I have learned how to stretch that fuse out a little longer. I have learned how to think for just one more second before opening my mouth or swinging my fist.
The Bible talks about God being “slow to anger” and in Proverbs 14:29 it says: “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” Wanting to become more God-like to that end, I have worked to become slow to anger and I suspect it has made a dramatic difference in my life. I have to believe that my short fuse would have held me back both socially and financially since I can only imagine that I would have lost numerous jobs over the years if I had let anger get the best of me.
This is not to say that I never get angry. Anger still happens, it is just under control. It has been years and years since I let it out. I do know that the last time it did happen, nothing got broken. My mouth made it crystal clear that I was angry but my hands remained at my side. At that time I was working on stretching that fuse. It wasn’t as long as it is now, but it was getting there.
I am pretty sure that the stretching of the fuse has allowed me to do something that otherwise might have been difficult to do, and that is relax. That extra second to allow the rage to settle has made it easier to enjoy the good things in life.
During the writing of this I have come to realize that becoming slow to anger has marched in lock-step with my ability to sleep soundly all night long.
It is entirely possible that it is a coincidence but I suspect that being at peace with the world and myself may be contributing to a better night’s sleep.
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