I was talking with a good friend last night about anger. Anger is by far the easiest emotion to have. I know. I took you by surprise with that one, didn't I? No? Are you angry that I would assume you're angry? I've had this thought for a while. Anger is easy. Anger is safe. Now you're really confused. How is anger safe?
Anger is safe because everyone understands anger. When you display the outward signs of anger, no one approaches you. You barricade yourself behind your anger, and you have nothing to explain...to anyone...because they're afraid to light the fuse that might make you angrier. Anger is a fortress. Anger is the easiest and most familiar mask we can wear. Anger is easy to feel, and sometimes our other emotions evolve into anger. Anger allows us to skirt around the emotions we're really feeling. If we stay angry long enough, then there's a good chance we're going to forget all about the emotion we were really feeling when we started feeling angry.
There's always something to be angry about. Soap in your eye = angry at the soap for burning your eye. Cold coffee = angry that your mug didn't keep it hot, or that you were interrupted many times before you got to drink it. Pants too small = angry that you can't seem to eat right and exercise no matter how hard you try. Car won't start = angry your kid left an interior light on that drained your battery. No milk = angry your husband forgot to pick it up on the way home. Behind someone driving 20 miles below the speed limit until you get to a passing zone = I'll show them! but still angry that they would do that just to annoy you. Should I keep going?
We live in a world that validates and even encourages our anger. Rights groups of all sorts fight for their right to be angry, and to make everyone else angry in the process. Politicians live to make us angry at the "other" party. Social media steeps us in anger every second of every day. Anger is easy. Anger hides the real problems. Anger hides our true emotions. Anger is safe. We all know how to be angry. We are born knowing how to let our frustrations be heard...loudly...to get our most basic needs met. It takes practice and time to learn how to feel, and to name, our other emotions.
Let's take a look at the characters from Inside Out. At the most basic level we have: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger. I love this movie, by the way. It has all the feels...literally.
The common factor in this lineup is Anger. Feeling Disgust? Anger is easier. Feeling Fear? Anger is safer. Feeling Sadness? Anger is less messy. Joy is the only one who cannot be covered up by Anger. Anger is easy to understand. It is universal. While there are many levels of anger, they are all essentially the exact same emotion. You can't say that about Disgust, Fear, Joy, or Sadness.
Honestly, the Inside Out analogy just came from nowhere, but it's true. Here's the other thing that is true. Anger takes no practice, no control, no diligence, no explanation, no upkeep. It is easy. It is safe. Feeling is what is hard. When you take a step back from your anger and ask what you're really feeling you might be surprised.
There are times that I am frustrated, stressed out thinking about being an adult, exhausted mentally and physically... but all of those things manifest as anger. There are times that I'm terrified for what the future holds for my children and even for my husband and me, and it comes out as anger. There are a great many times that my heart is torn in gut-wrenching sadness, but the only thing to cover the tears is the shroud of anger I pull down as a scowl, a harsh word, gruff actions.
There are things that I cannot even allow myself to think about, much less talk about, because the overwhelming sadness I still feel after four years chokes me. When I think about it I can't breathe, I feel like my heart is being shredded all over again. I question why it had to happen the way it did. I wonder what life would have been like if it hadn't happened the way it did. I relive the day I first heard the news. I relive the following weeks. I feel physical pain. It is exhausting. Anger is easier. Not giving in to my real emotions is safer. No one asks what's wrong if I look angry. If my eyes are red, my nose swollen, and my voice tear-choked then people ask...and I have to lie to them and say everything is OK. Anger is easier. Anger is safer. It doesn't take thought.
When I start feeling those other emotions I have to talk to myself. I have to remind myself that out of great heartache often comes great Joy. I have to remind myself that God has a plan and a reason for the suffering we endure on this earth. I have to remind myself that God created me to feel. God created me to have Joy in the face of Sadness. He created me to have peace in times of Anger. He created me to feel safe and protected in my darkest Fear. He created me to feel love conquer Disgust. I have to remind myself to turn to God when I'm feeling Anger in the driver's seat, to ask Him to be my portion, to take on my negative emotions and to fill my heart with His goodness. I have to remind myself that feeling angry and closed off all the time is not how I was created to live.
When I allow anger to override my emotions I find it much harder to feel any other way. It is more difficult to feel Joy, even in times that it should be the first emotion I feel. I'm not angry all the time, but I have allowed my life to be robbed by Anger...all because Anger is easy.