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Confessions of an “Angry” Man

angry dog sxc hu smallI like to think of myself as a nice guy. I think most people who know me would say that I am gregarious, helpful, flexible, self-sacrificing… I go out of my way to help those around me no matter how inconvenient or demanding their needs, and strive to be patient in my comings and goings recognizing that other people have places to be too. As a child my personality tests places me as a sanguine… pure and simple without any blending.[1] (Not sanguinary!) I am dutiful to a fault, and happy to be so… usually.

Many people close to me, however, have, on more than one occasion accused me of being an angry person. The natural set of my unfortunate face has often led to accusations of being upset even while I am in states of deep contentment, or general amusement… but it’s more than that.

I do have a temper, but it’s more than that, too.

I have a strong sense of justice and am quick to rise up over perceived wrongdoing… except in myself, of course. Even this, however, is not a sufficient explanation… though it’s getting warmer.

At the risk of self-defense, I think one of my greatest struggles in life has been that I tend to express my wide-ranging emotional inner-landscape with far fewer discernible landmarks. I seem to rely primarily on two… helpful gregarious nice guy or “anger” (Anything from a sullen countenance to rare bouts of explosive fury… mostly just a lot of noise and angry words on those occasions).

My daughter catches my son’s head in the sliding car door with such force that I’m convinced in a world-ending panic that she’s killed him?—”anger.”

Upset that someone obviously doesn’t like me? (I have an almost insane need to be liked)—”anger.”

Frustrated with my inability to explain something in a way that others can understand?—”anger.”

Heart-broken, hurt feelings, annoyed, bored, impatient, hungry, disrespected, disappointed, rejected, anxious, afraid, worried, embarrassed, humiliated, overwhelmed?—”anger.”

I’m rarely mean to anyone on purpose (save lashing out at the one’s I love the most… their injuries hurt me the deepest). I have always hated bullies (though I suppose my rather forceful personality and lifelong tendency to take the lead when nothing seems to be moving forward could be misconstrued as bullish by some people… hopefully misconstrued that is). I am usually devastated if something I’ve done has hurt another person emotionally or otherwise. As a child, I experimented with “mean” on a handful of occasions and still remember each incident with the same shame, guilt and horror I felt shortly thereafter.

I do struggle, however, with choosing appropriate expressions for many feelings, negative and positive… hence, the caveats.

I am not really sure why this is. I don’t lack for vocabulary. I am both observant and introspective and have spent the bulk of my life noting the subtleties of other people’s words and behavior and seeking to understand my own. I am quite a talker, and in a cool moment can detail my rich inner-life with the art of Nabokov. In the moment, however, I feel more like a bull on the streets of Pamplona.

In the end, I imagine that the bulk of that thing that others perceive as deep seated anger coursing below the surface of my external companionable exuberance is rooted in a fundamental frustration with the world and with others for not being what I passionately want them to be, particularly in relation to me, but also in relation to one another. Things and people are not as I long for them to be… not just in some short-sighted self-absorbed childish rant… “I want cookies for breakfast!!!!” …but in a marrow-deep, bowel-aching desire for peace, harmony, love, true friendship and meaningful community. Life has taught me that I am, perhaps, some kind of Frankenstein’s monster desperate for a level of reciprocated passion and devotion that my very nature renders unattainable… and I can’t stand it.

I suffer perhaps from low-level chronic exasperation with my own helplessness in the face of a rather cruel reality. We are fallen, selfish, hurtful creatures with just enough of that divine spark remaining to us to know it and to weep over it, but not enough to really change it, strive as we might. Indeed, strive we must when, by God’s infinite grace, His Torah has dawned upon our darkened souls. The only other option is to abandon all hope of goodness and soul deep fellowship.

A Torah rich society and Torah rich soul is the soil in which the gospel of Jesus Christ grows best—hearts and minds fully confronted with the possibility of true fellowship with our maker and with our fellow creatures, even when that hope falls defeated again and again before the crippling limitations of our twisted natures. It cries out for help in frustration with others and in frustration with itself.

The reason for this rather bald confession is a warning. Don’t judge a book by its cover… unless the cover features kittens… then buy it without hesitation.

Sorry, that was trite… but I mean it in a non-trite way.

Those whose frustration and pain and edgy selfishness boils over into public interaction are readily marginalized by an incessant media barrage of propaganda that has little truck with unfashionable demons, and no need to deal with reality. Who needs reality when you can just write a script, edit the take, or change the lighting.

We, however, who are forced to confront both the demands of divine Torah and the commission of a gospel of grace should know better. Have mercy… there is a lot going on below the surface in most people, and we all need salvation and ongoing sanctification. Perfection is a lot to live up to, and most hopelessly imperfect people are craving levels of love and devotion that they themselves do not know how to give or obtain.

Reminds me of the quote from Vincent van Gogh:

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”


[1] Eg. Choleric/Melancholy; It is my personal opinion that any test that needs to blend categories doesn’t have enough categories.

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