Anger is like water from a fire hose, fill your glass, break your glass.
I was away for a weekend with two of my girlfriends recently. We caught up on all of the good, the bad and the ugly from our lives. We also talked about anger and one of my friends said ‘anger is like a fire hose, if you fill your glass with a fire hose you will break your glass.’ You will break it because it’s not appropriate to use a fire hose to fill a drinking glass. And that is the same thing with anger, sometimes it’s just not appropriate how we choose to use it.
When I was in my tween and teen years I struggled with anger. I have a sizable temper and it took me years to learn how to control my temper in a way that was not destructive to myself or to others. To funnel it into my passion and drive, to try to use it as fuel instead of fire. I developed coping mechanisms and strategies that save me from myself. Even today anger can momentarily overwhelm me, but I am able to handle it, I worked hard at learning about my own triggers and hurt to be able to manage my anger in situations that well, make you very angry. So because of that work and evolution I sometimes forget that other adults have different rules. Some adults believe they are justified in their anger and actions to belittle people in public or shame others in an attempt to control them. To use their words as weapons and to spew harshness that hurts.
It’s not that I can’t understand anger or an angry reaction. Or that real life has circumstances where someone does something that offends you, hurts you or your family, lies, slanders or steals from you. My point isn’t that anger isn’t acceptable, it is that it is unacceptable when used to hurt other people, whether or not you believe they deserve it, whether or not you believe you are right.
The cold hard fact is that we are accountable for our actions. We are the rulers of our emotions and it is up to us to act reasonably and responsibly. We are responsible for our impact on others, we are responsible for how our words affect more than the person they are directed at, we are responsible.
I also believe that anger can be useful in some situations to assert protection or to put an end to a derailed situation. It’s when anger becomes an attack that it is out of place. Just like filling the water glass with a fire hose doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t make sense to take a waterpik to a house fire. So yes, I believe anger has its place. But I also think we justify our position or our actions because of our anger. Like it somehow makes it okay because we are hurt or injured. Like somehow we should get a pass because we are frustrated or suffering. Nope, I don’t think it makes it okay, I think it is anything but okay.
I do believe that anger is a fair emotion. I do believe that it is a very personal emotion and how we handle it is up to us, how we use it is up to us and how we inflict pain or injury onto others because of it is up to us. It is up to us to grow up.
If you are a Leader and remember I believe we are all in positions of leadership at any given time; of our work teams, community groups, families or friends; and if you take your anger out on your team or your colleagues, your friends or your family or even your un-friends or the innocents, you have more work to do. If you are handling your anger by abusing those in your path, you have more work to do. If you expect people to respect you and listen to you when you are explosive, belligerent and plain mean, you have more work to do.
We all have more work to do.