Onsite workplace chaplaincy encounters people where they are and how they are feeling. One issue that we often address is employee’s anger. Sometimes it is directed at a supervisor, a fellow worker, a family member, or someone who cut them off in traffic on their way to work.
Regina Barreca wrote, “Anger is . . . an itch, an allergic reaction to some little piece of life’s pollen blown your way.”
Of all emotions, anger is one of the most common, most potent, and intensely personal. It’s the quintessential individual signature emotion: You are what makes you mad.
Anger is normal and healthy. You are not responsible for the event or person that brought on your anger, only for how you respond to and use anger once it happens.
How should you respond the next time your smokestack starts to blow?
1. Don’t bury your anger.
Buried anger explodes when we least expect it. And, when anger explodes, it does all sorts of damage. It severs relationships, causes ulcers, and leads to murder. When anger turns inward, it leads to depression; when turned outward, it leads to aggression.
Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls said, "Anger is like shredded wheat caught under your dentures. If you leave it there, you get a blister, and you have to eat Jell-O for a week. If you get rid of it, the sore heals, and you feel better."
2. Be wary of chronically angry people.
Anger is highly contagious. It’s dangerous to associate jointly with people for whom anger has become a chronic way of life. Avoid these people.
3. Take time to cool off.
Dr. Carol Travis, author of Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion, advised: “Never speak in the heat of anger. You say things badly or wrongly. Give yourself time to cool off because you want your anger to accomplish something.”
Thomas Jefferson said, “If you’re angry, count to ten if you’re very angry count to 100.” Remember Seneca’s statement, “The greatest cure for anger is delay.”
4. Ask important questions.
When anger's fires are heating, ask: Is this anger worth what it's going to do to others and me emotionally? Will I make a fool of myself? Will I hurt someone I love? Will I lose a friend? Do I see this event from the other person's point of view?
Some things are not worth our angry outbursts. You can win some battles and still lose the war.
5. Choose to forgive.
Anger is a choice. Have you ever been in an argument with your spouse and the phone rings? Do you answer the phone with the same tone of voice that you were using with your spouse? In a split second, you can go from screaming to a pleasant sound.
If anger is a choice, so is forgiveness. You can control your anger by choosing forgiveness over anger. Forgiveness is surrendering your right to hurt the offender. Forgiveness and anger cannot live together. Forgiveness is the water that puts out the fire of anger.
When you lower the temperature of anger, you make for a healthier person and a happier work environment.