Who’s on Your Angry List?
One of my flatmates at university pinned a list, of all the people he was angry with, on the back of his door. We all thought he was crazy – but what if he was just publicly doing what we all do in secret?
Here are my two favourite reasons for being angry with people:
1. ‘They are wrong, wrong, wrong!’
Something just happened and someone else is 100% to blame. I am consumed with rage at the injustice. My close friends (and everyone on Facebook) must hear my side of the story and be equally outraged (while my colleagues look the other way because no one likes confrontation).
2. ‘”Hey buddy!” (I can’t believe she’s late again…)’
She’s one of my closest friends and I love her but she really gets on my nerves. She does things I just don’t understand and the only thing I can do is silently and angrily judge… I’m angry but I’ll never, ever tell.
Misplaced expectations are often the root of our anger. Too often we measure people’s behaviour against our own and are, inevitably, disappointed.
Sadly, no one is ever going to be good enough because no one is exactly like us. We end up withholding our kindness, acting distant and even talking down to the person in question.
There’s a saying in the bible that goes, ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matthew 7:12). A good thing to remember before we put others on a pedestal. The challenge is, can we cut people some slack? Can we say, ‘OK, you’re not perfect, but wait a minute, neither am I’?
Are our expectations too low?
Low self-esteem gives you an ‘oh never mind, that’s ok’ response to bad behaviour.
For example, do you let it slide when you share a problem, and your friend ends up sharing her own which takes over the conversation? Do you hurt inside every time a friend doesn’t turn up? Or a guy doesn’t treat you right but you always say it’s OK?
It’s horrible to feel unloved and poorly treated. If we don’t stand up for our worth we let selfish people walk over us.
Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 22:21). The bit to remember is ‘as yourself.’ We start to cultivate healthier relationships when we love ourselves well. The best metaphor I’ve heard for this is when flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before putting on your child’s. We need to know how to love ourselves so we can love others. It is not selfish to expect more from our relationships. It is called self-worth and you (yes, you) deserve to be loved and loved well.
Put your anger down
The old adage: ‘drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,’ is why forgiveness, however gradual, is the only way to get through. Even though it’s hard, it’s the only way to avoid ongoing pain and bitterness of unforgiveness. Here are some things I’ve found helpful when trying to forgive:
- Hear from a good friend
In our clashes with people, good, truthful and encouraging words are crucial so we don’t react badly. Find a friend who is a patient and compassionate listener.
- Be upfront
It takes a lot of bottle to tell a friend they hurt you. You risk a difficult reaction because no one likes criticism, but love is about sharing the hard stuff as well as the good. If you really love that person, telling them they’ve hurt you is part of putting that love into action. Be brave but be nice; if you take pleasure in criticising others, you’re doing it wrong.
- Practice compassion
We are all a work in progress and only a perfect person has the right to expect perfection in return. Focus on the good (even if it’s a stretch, find something). Consider what might be the reason behind what they do. Maybe they could do with your help rather than your judgement?
- Ditch the list
Even if it’s a secret on your heart, keeping a grudge list is dangerous. It fuels that awful feeling in your stomach and messes with your mind. Even just saying the words ‘I forgive______’ begins the journey to forgiveness. Sometimes it needs to happen in your head before it drops into your heart.
Words by Jane McKeever
Photography by Elaine Kwok