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Last updated March 03.

March 3, 2014 issue

Antidote to anger

By Sarah Kehrberg

Then bubbling up from the inner depths is the one thing we did not want, a biting and bitter spirit. — Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline

Kehrberg

Kehrberg

It’s unfortunate we can’t harness this world’s anger into some kind of tangible energy. Then we could say goodbye to fossil fuel and fracking and odd-looking solar panels.

Anger is a consistent, reliable presence. Occasionally it boils over as road rage or a ridiculous parent screaming at a sporting event. More often we carry in our inner recesses a simmering cauldron of discontent. It doesn’t erupt so much as slowly leeches all the flavor and texture from our lives.

Once I found myself in the checkout line in a particularly foul mood. The woman in front of me noted a possible coupon error, and a manager was called. When she turned to me and apologized, I gave her one of those tight­lipped grimaces that say, “I’m pretending to smile, but I obviously want to kick you to Siberia.”

Random annoyances like a long wait at the doctor’s office or a rude response from the school secretary can become laden with offense.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Jesus came so that we may have life, and have it to the full.

Nothing kills the fullness of life like anger — or, as Richard Foster describes it, “a biting and bitter spirit.”

I find gratitude to be the best antidote to swelling anger. In the past I’ve tried naming the things I’m supposed to: family, friends, health. I am thankful for all those things, but sometimes the rote list seems ineffective. It is tempting to believe I somehow deserve all those things. (I’m healthy because I eat right and exercise. I have friends because I’m a good friend in return. And so on.)

It has been more helpful to acknowledge specific things that sweeten my life. Things to which I have no connection and can take no credit.

That day at the grocery store I realized I was behaving badly and asked to see the goodness in front of me.

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