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Leadership Thought #382 – Dealing with Anger

July 10, 2012

Free Side view of discontent African American businessman in formal wear making crumple of document while standing near wall on street Stock Photo

Anger is a part of life but must be managed.

Today I received some very disturbing news.  It was information that would make anyone angry.  There is nothing worse than betrayal, especially when you have a long history with someone and have trusted them.  It never ceases to amaze me how people will rationalize their behavior and not take personal responsibility. The fact is that actions do have consequences and sadly there is often collateral damage to an individual’s behavior that can linger a lifetime and affect many people.   A pebble will cause a ripple in the ocean whether the act is good or bad – it is important to always remember this.

The question you must ask yourself when this happens is, “what can I really do about it?”  Unless you are the police and the actions are illegal, you can’t control the behavior of another adult.   People have and will continue to act in thoughtless self-centered ways.  This is especially true of the “me” generation which elevates the wants and needs of the individual over the common good.  All you need to do is open the paper or listen to the latest bit of neighborhood gossip to find countless examples of bad or questionable behavior.

Unfortunately getting angry for any prolonged period ends up hurting the victim much more than the perpetrator.  The latter truly gives the matter little thought after it happens while the former may spend years in therapy dealing with it.  Many books on personal development will tell you that you need to reach a place of forgiveness to heal and move on.  I’m not sure I fully agree with this advice although I do think it’s important to reach a place of acceptance.   As part of this journey, you should experience your feelings robustly instead of minimizing them or feeling bad about having a human reaction to a difficult moment in life.  We all have them.

However, once you’ve allowed yourself to “feel” you eventually need to find a way to move on.  Do your best to avoid a revenge mentality.  You can’t let the person who is the cause of your anger or emotional pain win.  You need to be better than that.  The universe works in mysterious ways, and I do believe in “karma.”   All of us must live with the consequences of our actions.  Positive energy begets further positive energy and negative energy does the same.  We can choose to accelerate the positive and decelerate the negative or the opposite. It is all up to us.

David Whyte has a great quote where he says, “never allow another person to define you in a way that is too small for you to live.”   I wholeheartedly agree with this bit of wisdom.  Prolonged or unchecked anger only leads to a narrow definition of who you want to be in this world.  It is harmful to the psyche, damaging to the soul and detrimental to your physical health.  What should you do with your anger?  Experience it, accept it, and push yourself to become a better not bitter person because of the experience.  If necessary, seek out professional help.  It may be hard to deal with, but the alternative is not a healthy way to live.