Channeling Your Tantrum Matters

“I don’t want to talk about anger right now,” one of Saddam Hussein’s advisors is reported to have said as he fled a Baghdad government building.

Whole world’s angry these days, isn’t it? I suppose I could use the war as an excuse for going 45 through the McDonald’s parking lot, but we’re all adults here, and I think we can understand that it’s not my fault I’m late just because Dr. Phil ran overtime.

Powerless lately?
When we are powerless, we seethe. I’ve been generating far more than my fair share of stomach acid as of late because I’ve been spending many hours a week in a toxic work environment; there was gossip and there was incompetency and there was pure corporate evil. When I tried to effect gentle changes, I was told—in the form of suddenly snipey performance reviews, denied sick leave, and a nice juicy paycut—that the company would really rather not amend their business practices. The universal crappiness cheerfully snowballed: I was robbed. War brewed. SARS spread. My boyfriend moved to Japan.

And then Mr. Rogers died.

And there was nothing I could do about it . Any of it. I drove to work knotted
in a flight-or-fight response and rode back again in tears. I screeched at telemarketers. I demanded my money back. I fired off a pissy email to a priest—BustedHalo’s Brett Hoover —who was so frightened that he called me, long distance, to ensure that I hadn’t started kickboxing baby chicks.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I’m just so mad all the time.”

And I could have answered for him the very same thing I said in wounded tones to various family members: “Well, you don’t have to take it out on me .”

The art of holy asskicking
Anger in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s a perfectly legitimate emotion, a psychological signal that our morals are being stomped upon or our personal space invaded. We’re allowed to be mad. A lot of people forget that Christ Himself threw a few holy tantrums; there was, for instance, the small but thoroughly enjoyable asskicking of the merchants in the temple.

It is the manner in which we channel the anger that matters. Righteous anger: OK. Pounding out an email containing the word “bullshit” to your editor who also happens to be a Paulist priest: Not OK.

And so the other day, as a company representative attempted to explain to me that I wasn’t allowed to go home for Easter because the scheduling department hadn’t processed my paperwork in the proper manner, I very quietly laid my security badge on my desk and left, softly closing the door behind me.

I think it kind of pissed her off.