When I was growing up, my father was a very angry man, even irate at times. I didn’t think anything of it. It was normal to me, that’s how I grew up. People would always say, “He’s Italian.” Like that somehow made it acceptable.
I remember times when we would be driving, just me and him, and someone would cut him off. My dad would chase that person down, have them pull over, and he would beat them up. Another time, we were having a family picnic, and some neighbors were there. I can’t remember the exact incident that caused this to happen, but my dad got mad and threw the table. One of the neighbors said, “What was that about?” No one else reacted to it, and the whole thing blew over.
One of my cousins has been telling me some interesting stories about my dad that he heard from aunts and uncles. There is this one story in particular that I want to share.
When they were younger, they moved into a new neighborhood. My dad asked the kids on the street who the toughest kid was on the block. They told him. He went right over to that guy and beat the crap out of him. Then, he was the toughest.
When I heard that story, I thought, yep that’s my dad. Growing up with my father, I learned some unattractive traits from him. Of course, I didn’t notice them. It wasn’t until I was engaged and we were arguing about something, and I threw a weight at him. He moved, and it put a hole in the wall. Right then he said he wasn’t going to marry someone with anger issues. We had just started going to church. I did not know how to change, so my first thought was that I better pray really hard about this issue. Here are three things that I learned.
- Pray — Pray and ask God to help you. You can’t do it in your own power. I read the Bible every day to find scriptures that talked about anger. I wrote them down and repeated them to really take in what it was trying to say.
James 1:19–20 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Proverbs 29:11 Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.
Those are just two examples, there are many other scriptures that talk about anger.
2. It’s not all about you — I’m sure for some people this is hard to hear, but not everything is about you. When someone does something to upset you or make you angry, most of the time they had no idea. They probably didn’t do it on purpose.
I remember this one time; we were looking at plants in the store. I was going to pick up this one plant in particular and look at it. The person next to me in the isle picked it up right when I was thinking about doing the same thing. I was so angry, but I had been asking God to help me recognize when I became angry. I realized the feeling I had at the moment. The belief at I wouldn’t get rid of the anger inside until I let it loose on the outside. I had to make that person understand they did something wrong and I was mad about it. At that point, I understood what God was trying to show me about myself and anger. That person did not know I was thinking about picking up that same plant. They were not purposely trying to upset me. The one with the issue was me. I took a moment to look inside and deal with that, instead of displaying everything on the outside. When I did that, the person had finished looking at the plant and had already set it down and moved on.
3. Take a breath — and look inside. Meditate on some scriptures or calming thoughts and let the moment pass. I am not a person that likes to do the whole “count to ten” thing. I have never been, and I still do not do it. However, taking a moment to be calm and think before you react, it can make all the difference in the world.
I know these things can help. It has been 28 years, and people cannot believe I used to be a person with anger issues. The comments I hear are, “You? You’re so calm and easy going.” Sometimes, I find it hard to believe also.