It covers up.
It grabs attention.
When I was listening to Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly recently, I had to pause and reflect as she was talking about anger being a socially acceptable cover-up emotion. I have to admit, anger baffles me. I mean, I do experience anger once in a while. Like after I ask my son for the 100th time to do something as simple as pick up his socks and HE STILL HASN’T DONE IT. Yup, I get angry then. But, what baffles me is the frequent anger I see in our world. And then Brené once again opened these foolish, foolish eyes. Anger isn’t just anger. It is so much more.
When a young dad walks up to a salesperson at a grocery store and asks if there are any cans of formula in the back and is told no, it isn’t socially acceptable for him to break down and weep even though that would reveal his true emotions. It is acceptable for him to fume and bark back at the salesperson and then stomp out of the store. This young dad is tired and desperate and doesn’t want to disappoint his struggling wife or his hungry child.
I am a school principal and I see anger as a cover-up emotion all the time. Anger can rear its sometimes ugly head when children are insecure, or when they are confused, or when they are scared. When we talk with children to find out what they are really thinking, we can help them identify their true feelings and come up with strategies to help them work through those feelings. With adults, we often don’t have that luxury. We just think they are jerks.
Thank you Brené for prompting these simple tips to use when facing an angry person, or even when anger bubbles inside of me.
- Understand that there is ALWAYS more to the story. People who are feeling great about themselves do not get steaming mad over someone cutting them off in traffic. There is something else going on there.
- Give grace. Don’t judge. Judgement fuels anger. And, it’s not your job. You are not the judge and jury for every angry person out there. Neither am I, and I have to remind myself of this frequently. Because, like I said, anger baffles me.
- Do not personalize anger. Even if it appears that way, 99% of the time, their anger is not about you. It is about what is going on inside them.
My favorite quote of ALL time is included in my new book, The Path to Serendipity, and it is a quote that runs through my head just about every day. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius explained my conundrum with anger so eloquently. Join me in not worrying about those bitter cucumbers or briars in our path. They will always be there, and there are so many more things to concern ourselves about.
“Is your cucumber bitter? Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough. Do not go on to say, ‘Why were things of this sort ever brought into the world?'”
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