The year was probably 1976 or 1977. It was a summer day when I was messing around in the small creek behind our house with my older brother and a friend or two. I honestly can’t remember if any of our buddies were around to witness the memorable events of that day. But I do know that my mom gave me a whipping on that day that I spent a lot of years believing was 100% undeserved.
I probably was never the most curious type of kid. But I did have a fascination with flood waters and dams. On this day, I was doing my best to dam up the creek. Piles of rock, clumps of dirt, and whatever it took to stop the flow of water and create a large standing pool behind it.
But anytime I neared achieving full stoppage, my big brother stepped in……..doing big brother things. Kicking away a carefully piled section of rock and running away laughing as the water flowed freely through again. I gave brief chase. I yelled. I said words that 8 and 9 year-old boys shouldn’t say. My anger grew.
This cycle repeated a few times, but I always returned to work, trying to finish the dam. I eventually found a type of grass that grew on the creek bank in clumps that, when pulled straight upward, would dislodge from the ground with a large root system clinging to a good amount of earth. These grass/dirt clumps would be the perfect finishing touches on my dam. But each time I set one down in a place to stop the final flow of water, my brother intervened again. He just picked up the mass of grass and dripping earth and threw it aside on the creek bank, once again undoing my work. Anger became rage.
Finally, the brief chase through the creek became a major chase toward our house. He may not have been any faster than me, but he did cover the 200 feet to our back door much faster than me. But I was handicapped by the muddy clump of grass that I carried in my right hand. Seeing that he was going to enter the house and the safe zone of mom’s presence, I knew I couldn’t let that happen. So I let it fly. I threw the grass clump.
And with perfect timing, my brother opened the back door. The grass clump flew over his head and splatted perfectly on the kitchen wall. I don’t recall exactly what happened next. But I recall something of my mom talking about just having finished cleaning the kitchen. I don’t recall the words that were spoken, but I’m pretty sure my mom was a bit angry. And I don’t recall what the weapon of choice was (belt or switch), but I do know that my brother and I got our tails busted.
And now, over 40 years later, I’m almost positive that my mom whipped me above the protests of, “But mom, but mom…………..don’t you know what he did to me first?”
Justified rage? No I don’t guess so. As I grew older, my family got a lot of laughs over the creek incident. And for some reason, I never let go of the lame reasoning that what he did first somehow justified what I had done. “But mom………….you don’t understand.”
Then I became a dad. Then I became a Christian. And I became a Christian dad that found truth and wisdom from the Bible (some things easier to grasp than others). And I found value in dealing with anger in biblical ways.
James 1 tells us that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
That’s pretty simple and straightforward. A person that can park these verses at the front of their brain will eventually see that the vast majority of things they get angry about aren’t really worth getting angry about.
Yes, our anger can be justified, but we can never use anger to justify poor decisions and the questionable acts that follow in their wake.
Sorry Mom! “Because Scott was being a butthole” isn’t an acceptable reason for my actions. I see that now.
But many times anger catches us off guard. So it becomes necessary to plan against it.
How many times have you witnessed this in an NFL or NCAA football game where the score is tight, the team on defense is clinging to a small lead in the 4th quarter, and they make a key stop on a 3rd and long play. Oh but wait. The defense gets a dead ball personal foul penalty, extending the drive, and allows the offense to march on to the go-ahead or game winning points. Why? Because an offensive player delivered a cheap shot, and the defensive player retaliated. “But, but……..he did this first.” Well, that’s all fine and good, but you probably just lost the game for your team.
You can’t follow up one act of stupidity with one of your own, just because they did it first. Sometimes you just have to know what’s coming and make plans to walk away.
When I see news clips these days, I notice a lot of angry people. Obviously, being angry is what gets you publicity in the first place, but still. There seems to be a growing trend of opposing sides of protests (following the perfect model of mob mentality of course) lashing out at each other with violence or hateful speech. I assume these same people could calmly discuss their opposing views if they found themselves sharing a booth and a latte at Starbucks. But I guess that there’s a reason that most people show up at a lot of these protests and act the way they do; they make no plans to not be angry. They show up because the are angry and they plan to stay that way.
That can be a dangerous thing. People who falsely identify their anger as justified when it’s really not. It’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in public figures and elected officials being confronted and harassed in public places. But what is surprising (and disturbing) is the number of people who are willing to defend these kooks.
“I don’t blame them.”
“They deserve it.”
So I guess I should make a point in this other than “don’t let your siblings irritate you to the point of rage”, so how about this:
- Plan against anger. Know ahead of time, the kinds of situations you will be faced with, and make up your mind that your anger won’t lead you to poor decisions.
- Don’t try to justify acts of stupidity, born of anger, where your only lame attempt at reasoning matches that of a 9 year-old………”But mom, don’t you know what he did first?
Some people honestly just choose to be mad. Yeah, I get that. But that’s not really a good choice, is it?
Just because your big brother peed in your snuff can when he was 15 doesn’t mean you can blow up his car when he’s 17.