Let me be the first to say, I’m awful when I get really upset, and my wife agrees with this statement. I overreact, and I jump to conclusions. I’ve been known to be a little dramatic from time-to-time, and if I was forced to watch myself on screen as I performed many of my childish antics, I would be embarrassed enough to literally crawl under a rock. Much like a rocket that shoots into orbit, I quickly run out of steam and come back to earth quickly and thus my mistakes are overwhelmingly realized, and although I do apologize it never seems like enough at the time. This got me thinking, why can’t I recognize when I’m getting mad, or even better, why can’t I just walk away from my anger when it surfaces? A local priest once gave a homily where he indicated patience is a virtue, a grace we receive from God. This gracious gift, is not something which is just passed around, but something which is asked for and prayed about, a gift of sorts. It doesn’t mean we’ll ever receive it, but what it does indicate, we have the humility to ask for something which brings us closer in communion with God.
Have you ever known anyone who is quiet and never seems to be bothered by much of anything, or if they are, they spew their anger in much the same way a cool breeze meanders its way down a valley, with ease and comfort? I’m sure we all do, and I’m sure much like us, they have a story to tell. My desire to be more patient with my wife and my kids is always thwarted by me, I always get in the way of my greatest desires. This is something I think not altogether uncommon, and we all do, we are our own worst enemies. The enemy platitude is often utilized when performing and failing to achieve the heights we dreamed about, but shouldn’t it also be applied to everything we do? Do we set ourselves up for failure by fantasizing about what might be, rather than what is right in front of us?
For many years, there seemed to be a torrent of anger built up inside of me, and I never knew how to let it go. I was incredulous to questions like, “what you have to be angry about”, and truthfully, I didn’t know. I tried to control getting mad, and I would do ok, for a time, but inevitably I would get really upset and become a grizzly bear to anyone who was closest to me. My focus was on trying to control, what is impossible to control, the situation, and then the priest’s words hit me. If I’m unwilling to ask for help, and I’m unwilling to accept my sin for what it is, then I am unwilling to love God. I know this seems somewhat extreme, but in the context of life and God, it seems relevant and anything but extreme to me. This anger about life and where and how I exist in it has consumed me for years. It carries with it a weight, one which is much like the Jacob Marley chain of penance, one that weighs my very soul down.
To start off, I was more focused on me than anything around me, I was selfish to say the least, probably a little narcissistic, when it came to the people around me. I really didn’t care too much about most things, unless they fulfilled a wish of mine. I had friends which I deluded myself into thinking I could be friends with, but whom I ultimately pushed away with my lies and selfish behaviors. I don’t really speak with them anymore, and this is a regret in my life, but one which I have come to grips with although I do not like. In my teens, I was a portly child who couldn’t accept I ate too much and this really upset me, and making friends was a little difficult, so my behavior towards people exacerbated the situations around me. When an opportunity came along for people to say what they felt, they usually did. This was as a direct result of me, mouthing off and talking about them behind their backs and it getting to back to them at one point or another. At any rate, I blamed them for my behavior and so began the anger. I’m sure I would have walked down a life path of awful decisions and derision, but God has been there the whole way. Always placing something in my path to help correct me, and even place a wreath of humility around my neck.
This has never been more prevalent than in my working life, as I have come face-to-face with a reality which offers me little of the career I envisioned, and one of even harder work than I could have imagined. A career where people take credit for my pains, and one where no matter what I could possibly do, it doesn’t ever seem to be enough. This runs counter to anything in my nature, as I was taught to fight for everything, to argue my point, and “stick to my guns” as my father would say. It has never been a matter of giving up on anything, rather figuring out the way which will work best. So, if you can imagine, my desire to fix my own pain, and my own anger has consumed me. I can solve anything but this, and not only can I not fix it, but the harder I try, they worse my situation ever gets. So, what’s the answer?
The answer, my brothers, is, God! God has always been there in everything I’ve ever done, but I’ve needed the help of people to let me see his light. My wife, for one. She shows me where I need to be, all the time, and helps lead me down a path which is hard, frustrating, and painfully truthful but for my good. She sometimes will state “this too, shall pass”, and I nod, because I know it to be true, but it still doesn’t stop the pain and anger of the failure I have felt. There is wisdom in her words though. So, my anger would subside but surely as the sun rises it would rear its ugly head. It pains me to say, I would not go to God with my issues. Prayer, and meditation were the answer, if I could pray, I could center my life and activities accordingly. Many people deride the Catholic Church for its use of prayer, many prayers (Hail Mary, Rosary). Though, if you step back and look at the nature of the prayers being said, you’ll see they are asking for help, desiring the love of God, and begging forgiveness for our faults. Therefore, I feel centered when I go to prayer, and I know peace can come over me.
I was blessed about a year ago to be pushed into a retreat which my wife assured me would be a life changing event. She was right, she usually is! I left angry, and I came back with a sense of released pressure. The image in my mind was always like waves crashing on the rocks then as I came back from the retreat, I felt as though the water was calmed. In time the water always comes back, but at least this time, I knew what I was dealing with, and was learning how to withstand the crash of my problems better. The retreat was a Godsend. It was a retreat for men, where we could come together and pursue a relationship with God, to get to know God. Men cried, and men hugged, and we realized a vulnerability which we’ve all had didn’t make us weaker, but strong like iron. What I took with me as I left the retreat center was, there are many men who suffer from the same problems and disappointments I suffer from. We want so badly to be something more than we are. We want to overcome our past and give our family the real man they know exists. What we got from all of this was a sense of help, friendship, a sense of community, and a sense of God in all things. Many of the men I spent a long weekend with are some of my very best friends today. We meet regularly and discuss what’s on everyone’s minds, and what struggles each one of us are dealing with. Anger is always there for me for some reason, masking itself as ambition, or telling me, “it’s ok to get mad, you have a right to”. I don’t, I know this, and this is my struggle, to release my anger to God, and let God give me the grace to be a better man, husband and father.
So, I choose to write this blog, I know there are men out there who feel much like I do, and I want you to know, you’re not alone, you have a brother in me. I know we have the responsibility of being fathers and husbands and this isn’t easy. Know that you’re not the only one, and if you ever feel so angry you could weep, know that you’re not alone. Take time at the office to stop what you’re doing and pray for ten minutes, take time at the house to look around at your wife and your children and focus on the gifts God has given you. When you do this, I promise you will feel the warming touch of the Holy Spirit come upon you and you will feel centered immediately. This is what it takes, slow down, recognize, you don’t have to fix everything everywhere. Be willing to accept you don’t have control, and God most certainly does, and let him show you the path. Laugh, be so willing to laugh (of course don’t laugh like a crazy person, they will surely admit you to the behavioral center) but laugh. One release for me, is joy, God is my joy, and in it him, I find solace. Work is difficult for me on almost a daily basis, and within the structure of my work, I find joy his gift of joy to me.
I will admit, I was upset over the last two days, and I could have been better about my attitude towards my kids, and especially my wife. I could have slowed down, and taken the time to appreciate her, and I didn’t, my words as I type them are a poignant reminder of my flaws in their numerous cavalcade of selfishness. Though, in my boorish behavior, I’ve once again been shown just where I need to be, and where I was. A man who has an ability to self-reflect has an ability to tear down the façade of machismo which is boyhood, and really become a man. I tell people all the time, I don’t really think I became a man until I was forced to decide for someone other than myself, and the decision was not in my favor. I had to make a choice against myself as a matter of accepting responsibility, and part of becoming a man was confronting my mistakes. Once my mistake was confronted, then it was a matter of making the situation better. This is another big part of who we must be, men willing to fix what is broken, and work so very hard never to break it again.
I hope and pray, in your tough times, you’ll look to the light of Christ, and know he walks with you every step. I hope, you can look at your spouse with a sense of gratitude in their eyes and see the grace which was bestowed upon you from God. You may have tough times ahead, even with your spouse, but don’t give up. Stephen Covey wrote in his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, when an audience member asked him what she should do when she fell out of love with her husband. His advice was simple, “just fall back in love”. His advice is so simple, choose, it’s a choice. Choose to work hard and accept a pathway which was perhaps not what you thought it would be but is or choose to become angry at something which anger is never a solution and risk being miserable. Misery begat misery. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!