Anger is a natural and powerful emotion that does serve positive purposes. In fact, many great things have been spawned out of anger such as the Civil Rights Movement, Women's Suffrage, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to name a few. But, anger can also cause devastation and destruction. You see, if anger is not handled appropriately, it becomes like a tornado that can and will destroy all things in its path, including its beholder. In fact, anger will only feed itself and leave irrational justification for behavior. Uncontrolled anger results in sabotaged relationships, poor work and/or academic performance, job loss, violence, depression, health problems and ultimately self-destruction. Unfortunately, millions of people struggle with destructive anger. But there is good news; people can change.
People have the unique ability to change how they respond to anger. I want to share a story with you that was shared with me while at an event presenting on the topic of teen anger. I was approached by an 80-year-old man; he started some small talk and then asked if he could share something with me. I obliged and sat back and listened. I felt as though I quickly switched roles from "expert" (whatever that means) to pupil…because in those few moments he left an impact on me and my approach to anger.
Here's the simple message he conveyed:“You know I was one of those angry kids?”he said. I nodded and decided to engage in the conversation, “You were?” I asked, noticing he had used past tense. “What changed you?” He looked me in the eyes and said, “A triple by-pass when I was 40 and losing my wife to a divorce.” I could sense that he was reliving some of those memories. "Hmm, that's a lot." I replied. On his face I could see the 80 years of life lessons and wisdom as he began to form his thoughts. "It took that to make me realize that I had to change. You see I found something..." He left me with the curiosity of wanting to know his secret. “What did you find?” I asked.
His response was simple, but has remained with me to this very day. He sighed and a smile spread across his withered face, “I found inner peace.” Digging deeper, I asked him how he found it. He said he made a decision one day to make a change. "When you're faced with life and death and you lose everything you care about, you begin to look in the mirror and say I don't want to live this way. I need to make a change. So I did." I watched as he placed his New York Yankees baseball cap back on his head and with a nod and smile we finished the conversation. I stared as he walked hand and hand with his second wife of many years and thought, "Thank you."
Life is too short to be angry at the world. Don't let anger spiral out of control like a tornado. Just like the gentleman who inspired me with his experience, it is my sincerest hope that you too find your own “inner peace.”
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” Dalai Lama XIV