I am not the most reasonable person that ever walked this earth, and, as fond as I am of saying that I have a long fuse before I get angry–I really don’t. The littlest things can make me flame up like a marshmallow on a stick over a campfire. I can look at this two ways: 1) I am still a great big child and act like one, or 2) just as long as I don’t hurt anyone or break anything, I’m merely venting. (It goes without saying that I’d just as soon not have anyone see me vent…..it’s not pretty.)
It’s taken me years to figure this out, and here it is: you will never regret taking the high road when it comes to arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings, and the like. Life is just too short to hold grudges, plus holding them damages us inside. Staying angry at someone and letting that anger fester is not hurting the person who made you angry in the least. But it’s eating you up inside. As said before: keeping your anger burning about something someone said or did is like drinking poison to make that person sick. It just doesn’t work. They go on their merry little way, and you are the one suffering.
What works for me is forgiving out loud. I have a long commute to work and, the law of averages being what they are, I’ve seen some incredibly stupid, selfish and downright dangerous behavior. Like most of us, when I get scared, I go right from scared to angry. Scared because some idjit just put my life in danger and angry because some idjit just put my life in danger. Due to the fact that no one knows how someone will react to the one-finger salute, I don’t do that. Oh, I will certainly do it below the dashboard, but not where it can be seen.
We don’t know what another person may be going through. They may have just lost someone they loved, they may have been fired unjustly and have no idea how they are going to pay their mortgage, they may have been diagnosed with a fatal disease–and they are taking out their sorrow, angry, frustration and fear on the world around them. I don’t say this to excuse irresponsible behavior; I say it only because it helps me to dial down my own anger response.
Or then again, they just might be jerks who think they can do whatever they want whenever they feel like it. But either way, it makes life easier to blow off some harmless steam in the privacy of your vehicle, then say (or yell) “I forgive you–you JERK!” Funny how freeing that is.
We do so much harm to our bodies, minds and souls when we hold in anger or resentment. It poisons us and unfortunately can actually cause physical damage to our bodies over time. So swear all you want, throw things in the safety and privacy of your home; whatever it takes to free you up. But don’t hang on to anger—just forgive out loud and go on. Once you cool off, you can be comforted by the thought that you took the high road and did not make a big ugly scene or run someone off the road.
Years ago, I took a self-awareness course. They can get pretty intense, and to my dismay, I was chosen out of my class to sit up in front of everyone and have the instructor “work me over” verbally. Long story short, this is one of the techniques used to break through someone’s pent-up grief or anger and ultimately free up the person holding on to it. It’s hard–but it forces you to let go of the anger. The instructor described how hanging on to old hurts can become an unhealthy habit that keeps you from moving forward in your life. The way she put it was this:
“Holding on to old hurts and resentments is like dragging a sack of bricks around wherever you go. Say someone wants to know you better; maybe even start a meaningful relationship with you, but no–you show them your bag of bricks and say, ‘oh no, I can’t do that because I have to carry these and I don’t have room in my life for that and you, too.'”
It was a great visual of how we hurt ourselves over and over again by NOT letting go of past issues. If we can just deal with them one at a time, let each one go (because you really don’t need them, do you?), and forgive OUT LOUD–we can be free.
So, for you and for me, let’s just make a habit of taking the high road. It’s better, and there’s so little traffic.