I’m not certain if it’s just the times we live in, the stress that seems to have overtaken our lives, or just my observation, but it seems as though everyone has a short fuse these days.
Politics make us angry. Social issues fuel our fire. Rage prevails everywhere you roam showing itself in stores, on the road, and even online. Sometimes I think every human being should take an anger management course. And I’m not to be excluded.
As a Christian, I’m troubled by the intense fury I experienced not so long ago over my cell phone. So I searched my Bible for guidance about what to do with anger. I found familiar verses such as:
- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1
- “For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” ~ Proverbs 30:33
- “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” ~ James 1:19-20
It surprised me to find over 260 mentions of the word anger in my New International Version Bible. The Lord God got angry – a lot – just read the Old Testament if you don’t believe me. Obviously, wrath is an emotion that God, both the Father and Son, displayed and that tells me that anger itself isn’t a sin, it what’s we do with it.
Do we use it for revenge? (I’m going to make him pay for that!) Do we use it to harm another physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually? (Take this and that!) Do we use it as a crutch for other unseemly behavior? (Well, I just couldn’t help myself, I was so mad.) Do we allow rage to take root in our hearts and turn to bitterness towards others and unforgiveness? (How could he do that to me?) Do we use it to justify holding a grudge? (I’ll never speak to her again!)
Those are the questions believers should grapple with and I am no exception. Because I am just as guilty as any one. Just take me to a cell phone store.
Yep, just as churning cream does produce butter, cell phone stores churn up my anger. Every time I retell this tale, my blood pressure raises a few points, the pitch of my voice rises a few notches, and I generally see red.
So I thought that if I put my anger down in written words, maybe I can move on and not visit it any more. Because really, I don’t want to hold a grudge against that cell phone rep, but I think I am.
You may recall that my trusty cell phone – you know, the ‘dumb’ one without internet, the plain old send and receive phone calls and text messages – committed suicide one morning on my drive to work when it deliberately jumped into my hot cup of tea.
Hubby and I were in the midst of trying to decide what to do about our cell phone contract when that misfortune occurred. Did we want to renew with the same provider or just purchase new phones and a simple talk plan elsewhere? We discussed, researched, analyzed our needs, and then my cell jumped ship. In the meantime, I found my really old flip phone and reactivated it to get by.
Finally we were ready to bite the bullet, renew our contract, and get new cells. So off we scampered to the cell phone store like two lambs to the slaughter. After what seemed like forever, we finally convinced the young sales rep that no, we did not want nor need smart phones.
She was determined and persistent, I’ll give her that, as she tried to persuade us to upgrade our plan to include internet. We couldn’t seem to convince her that we wouldn’t use internet access on our cells. Only after I told her our home was situated in the country, where most of the time the signal drops our cell calls, did she finally surrender to our wishes.
An hour later, hubby and I happily left the mall with our brand new matching phones. Two cells exactly the same. His sported a black protective cover and mine was encased in purple. We could send and receive phone calls and text messages which were easy to manage on our slide-out keyboards. Cell phone bliss, we thought.
But then I noticed my purple phone wasn’t very perky since it would not hold a charge for more than a day while hubby’s black beauty lasted a week. And I hadn’t even been talking or texting on it! This continued until I became exasperated enough to take it back to the store where we purchased it.
After a long wait, because the cell phone store is always crowded, a young man assisted us. Well….I thought he was assisting us. I detailed the problem with my phone. He promptly started showing us products to purchase.
“No,” I said politely, “I don’t need those. My phone’s battery will not hold a charge.”
He steered us to the counter, removed the battery from my phone, spun it on the counter, and reinserted it. Nothing’s wrong with your battery, he told me.
“Then why won’t it hold a charge for longer than 24 hours when I haven’t even been making calls or texting on it? And why does my husband’s cell – the exact same one as mine – hold a charge for a week?” I asked.
He mumbled a bunch of mumbo jumbo about apps and what-nots while he distractedly looked around the store. “I don’t have internet or apps or what-nots on this phone,” I replied and again repeated what was quickly becoming my mantra – my phone won’t hold a charge.
Round and round we went. Repeatedly. I stated the issue. He blabbered some inane response which didn’t address the problem. I explained, my husband tried explaining, but this young man wasn’t or didn’t want to grasp the issue. When he informed me I should just purchase a new battery, my temper flared a bit but I kept it in check.
“I have only had this phone for 3 weeks. It’s a new phone,” I countered.
The solution was simple – give me a new battery or a new phone. But this young man couldn’t see the forest for the trees and after bantering back and forth for a good 30 minutes, another phone rep came over to ‘help.’ He asked what the problem was. By this time, my patience had moved to another country.
I’ll admit that I AGAIN explained the problem with a bit of shortness in my voice, but I certainly wasn’t yelling or being overly demanding and rude. Yet what happened next sent me right over the edge. The new guy threw up his hands, palms facing outward at me in a ward you off kind of way, and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”
Honestly, I am not a confrontational person. I tend to take the high road and avoid confrontations at all costs. I’m usually pleasant even when others are rude; I try hard to be self-controlled when angry; and I don’t fly off the handle at strangers. And I really am not a violent person at all! But these two guys pushed all the wrong frustration buttons.
I literally wanted to knock their heads together and give them a piece of my mind, that’s how angry I had become over the situation. I closed my mouth, glanced at my husband, and in a quietly controlled but furious whisper announced, “I’m done! I’m walking out of here before I say something I’m going to regret.”
And I walked out of the store. Left my cell phone. Left my husband standing at the counter with the two
idiots sales reps. Marched myself up and down the mall way for a good 10 minutes to calm down and finally plunked my infuriated self down on a bench. An older gentleman walked by, sat down opposite me, but he didn’t stay long. I think he took one glimpse of my beet red livid face, felt my fuming vibe, and escaped.
When I finally calmed down enough to re-enter the place, the manager was speaking with my husband. I caught the tail-end of the conversation as I approached the counter. The manager’s solution, “This phone needs a new battery, give them one.”
Finally! After an hour of sheer frustration! Of course, they didn’t have any in stock, so I still had to wait until the new battery arrived in my home mailbox. But that I could handle. It was the inattentiveness, lack of understanding, and downright rudeness of the clerks that made me want to pop a blood vessel. My husband told me he’s never seen me get so irate before and that’s true.
So maybe I need a little refresher course in handling frustration. I googled anger management – not on my dumb phone but on my laptop. And I found the following 10 tips to control your anger from the Mayo Clinic. The list includes good advice but I had to add my own responses to the tips in italicized parenthesis.
No. 1: Take a timeout. Before reacting to a tense situation, take a few moments to breathe deeply and count to 10. Slowing down can help defuse your temper. If necessary, take a break from the person or situation until your frustration subsides a bit. (My time-out included getting out of that store before I wanted to break the person.)
No. 2: Once you’re calm, express your anger. As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them. (I had already stated my concerns and needs repeatedly but no one responded appropriately.)
No. 3: Get some exercise. Physical activity can provide an outlet for your emotions, especially if you’re about to erupt. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other favorite physical activities. (I got plenty of physical activity as I marched up and down that mall with my heart racing as fast as my feet!)
No. 4: Think before you speak. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same. (No kidding! All I could think about was how frustrating those people were but I bit my tongue instead of giving them a tongue lashing!)
No. 5: Identify possible solutions. Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything, and might only make it worse. (I already had identified the solution – give me a new battery – but no one would listen.)
No. 6: Stick with ‘I’ statements . To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. (I didn’t blame ‘them,’ I blamed ‘it’ – the phone. But that still didn’t get me anywhere.)
No. 7: Don’t hold a grudge. Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly as you want at all times. (I’ve forgiven and am trying not to hold a grudge. But is it really unrealistic to expect a sales clerk to help you with a faulty item you bought in that store? I don’t think so.)
No. 8: Use humor to release tension. Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Don’t use sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse. (Being agreeable and pleasant didn’t get me anywhere. I fail to find humor in that.)
No. 9: Practice relaxation skills. When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as, “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation. (The ‘elevator’ music playing in the mall just irritated me further. At this point, the only thing to relax me was the promise of a new battery.)
No. 10: Know when to seek help. Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you. (I do know where to seek anger management help. It’s a thing called prayer.)
And it’s a thing called ‘letting it go.’ My new battery works like a trooper. My cell is reasonably charged to let me talk and text. I learned one important aspect of anger management from this experience. I need to guard myself from that kind of wrath and take the following verse to heart:
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” ~ Ephesians 4:25-27
And stay away from the Verizon store.