One of my favorite moments in the film “Groundhog Day” is when Bill Murray says to Punxsatawney Phil “Don’t drive angry.”
I was reminded of that today when I was thinking about what to write for my daily blog post. Why? Because this has not been my day. I won’t go into the details, but this has been one of those days when every little thing just conspires together to make things rotten, from conversations to miscommunication to technological mishaps.
And I do not particularly want to talk to anyone at all right now.
I’ve blogged angry in the past, actually, and while I sometimes get digital pats on the back for some of those posts (maybe because I am at my most sarcastic then and people sometimes like that), I usually regret it later.
Anger can of course be a very focusing emotion. It can give real drive and even can be enjoyable in a certain sense. But it usually blinds us to all kinds of details that we should be paying attention to, and it even makes what is good seem bad.
When my five-year-old son gets angry, he begins declaring that he hated whatever he had just been doing (even if he had obviously been having a great time), and testifies that Today is The Worst Day Ever.
When I get angry, I can be very focused, but I usually become very unfair to whatever or whomever I am addressing. Nuance goes out the window. Counter-evidence goes, too. All that matters is that I Am Right. It certainly does not matter that I am probably hurting someone in front of me or someone reading what I am saying.
One of the lessons I have had to work on as I’ve gotten further along as a Christian, husband, father and priest is the realization that, in the midst of anger, I have to stop doing anything potentially meaningful and go somewhere else. Meaning has to be communicated with love. I have no business writing or disciplining my children or talking with friends or parishioners when things have gotten me steamed.
If I do, I will likely regret what happens or drive people away, often without knowing that I’m doing so.
We all get angry. God willing, we gradually learn to live in such a way that it happens infrequently. But some days just contribute enough stress that you get pushed past the threshold. And that’s when you’ve got to go somewhere else to let it go.
It might feel good to let off steam with another person involved in some way. But it’s almost always a bad idea. And “venting” to another person has the potential to become an addiction all its own.
God grant that we learn to use this incensive, “burning” power of anger against our sins (not against ourselves, mind you, and definitely not against someone else), so that we burn them away and become purified through the experience.