- Religion and Philosophy
Why Anger Hurts You More Than Anyone Else
Something bad has happened to me.
But that can wait.
It's not like nothing bad has ever happened to me before. But this was big. And it hurt. Still does. Right now, you just need to know that something bad has happened to me, and the experience has made me change the way I deal with the people in my life.
I was raised you don't return evil for evil. I was raised you turn the other cheek. I was raised you reap what you sow. As a result, I have, more often than not, held my tongue when I'm angry, not rushed to tell everybody I know about this horrible person and what they've done to me or my loved ones, and given people the benefit of the doubt when they are rude, inconsiderate or just plain mean. Well, no more. This experience has toughened me up. It's changed the way I look at other people. It's changed me.
I'm done letting the jerks of the world get away with all the "stuff" (this is a family site, right?) they get away with so much of the time. From now on, I'm calling them on it. You hurt me or someone I love, I don't forget. I don't act like nothing happened and move on. And I certainly do not forgive. Those days are over.
I've been doing this now for about 18 months. I wake up each morning and review the list of everybody I'm mad at or have something against to make sure I don't unintentionally do something nice if I happen to see them today. It's hard to break old habits, and, if I'm not constantly on my guard, I might accidentally smile when I'm supposed to glare at somebody. I might say, "Hello" instead of ignoring them. If they call on the phone, I might sound pleasant before I realize it's "them."
Now I'm not just talking about people I know personally who have offended me in some way. If you're going to do this tough guy thing right, you have to be ready in any situation that might arise in daily life. If I'm not concentrating all the time on looking out for myself, I might let the guy with 12 items get in the 10 items or less line in front of me at the grocery store. I might let that car that tried to get to the head of the line by driving down the emergency lane cut in front of me. I might not hang up immediately on the telephone solicitor, and we can't have that. Not any more.
I'm doing my best not to be that sweet, stupid, schmuck anymore, but to tell you the truth - it's killing me. I can't carry all this weight around all day, every day. It's exhausting. And it's accumulating at an amazing rate. I never realized how often people do bad things. I guess I just wasn't paying attention before this bad thing happened to me.
All this effort I'm making to defend myself now against the slightest slight is wearing me down. It takes too much energy. And no matter how diligently I work at it, or how hard I truly try, you know what the worst part is? It doesn't change what happened to me in the first place. Not in the slightest. The person who did this bad thing to me has no idea what I'm going through, the effort I'm making, how much I've changed because of what happened. My only reward for all this work? I'm making myself sick.
Matthew Kelly got it so right when he said that unforgiveness is like taking poison and expecting that other person to die. I can't live like this. And it has nothing to do with whether what other people do is OK with me or not. I still have my opinions. I still react to injustice. I still feel other people's pain. I just can't carry the weight of the burden of revenge and spite and anger. Not all the time. Not every day.
A very wise man once said when you forgive someone a wrong they've done to you, it has nothing to do with expecting that person to be sorry. So forgive, for your own sake, but be realistic. Don't expect that someone to behave differently because you've forgiven them. Don't expect them not to do the same thing again. They might. In fact, they probably will.
Consequently, you might want to set some limits on your involvement with them. Not that you won't forgive them. But you might find you have a more contented existence when you limit how much of your time, energy and/or resources you spend on them. If they were unreliable, don't be so quick to depend on them again. If they didn't repay a debt or a loan, maybe you shouldn't lend them your money or your valuables. If they can't say anything positive about you or anybody else, maybe don't spend an hour on the phone listening to them every night. (I was going to say talking to them instead of listening, but I'll bet you don't usually get to contribute all that much to the conversation.) Have realistic expectations where they are concerned. Set limits.
The wise man said you know you've really forgiven someone if you can wish them well.
Yeah, not there yet. Not for the person who did this bad thing to me in the first place. I need more time. I'm only human. OK. OK, Mr. Wise Man, I'll grant that person is only human also. But, for now, that's as far as I can go.
I will admit though, I do feel better already.