We live in an age of outrage! Words like “demands” or “destruction” seem to fill the airwaves. The louder the voices, the more irrational the claims or outrageous the demands become.
Wise words are not always carried in the volume of the messenger or the anger of the speaker. I read in the Book of Proverbs a cautionary word: “Harsh words stir up anger.” When the television cameras are turned on, the sense of speaking in a rational tone is often forgotten. Harsh, angry words are often the result. But even worse can be the irrational behavior that follows.
Uncomfortable feelings can produce irrational thinking. Only when we examine the irrational thoughts can we begin to control the feelings from which our anger often erupts.
Some basic mental health principles may help us during these times of outrage.
First, we need to lower the volume of our conversations, demands and protests. I watched a passionate young lady screaming abusive and obscene words at an older man on the street. He tried to respond to her accusations but she appeared to want only to scream louder. Finally, his quiet demeanor began to slow down her volume and abuse. After a while, he convinced her to sit down on a bench to talk with him. I thought about another bit of advice from Proverbs: “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; that allows him to overlook an offense.”
Second, reasoning can calm an abusive spirit and overcomes irrational thinking. Listening is a more powerful stance than is volume! Parents who scream at their children very often produce children who scream back at their parents! A college speech research unit demonstrated through a group of experiments that when people are yelled at, they almost always yell back. Their research also confirmed that you can control another person’s tone of voice, depending on the tone you adopt. Keeping your voice softer will not only keep you from getting angry, but may also prevent the other person from becoming upset. The Bible instruction is “Be slow to anger.”
Third, I ran across a book entitled “Hurt People Hurt People.” Dr. Sandra Wilson writes that hurting becomes a vicious cycle which each of us needs to break. When people hurt, they tend to strike out at others. Sometimes our unidentified fear or rage explodes on someone else. In reaction, that person bears the pain of my hidden hurt.
Finally, healing from our wounds requires strong wisdom. At its core is the strength of forgiveness! When one is forgiven himself for inflicting hurt on others, he can be better able to offer an act of mercy to another. The Psalmist said, “Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven.” From the joy of being forgiven, we can offer a more generous response to those with whom we deal.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, one of the requests was, “Forgive our sin as we forgive those who sin against us.” Like a faucet that turns on to allow water to flow, the human spirit at its best generates the possibility of allowing forgiveness to be our response rather than an angry, hurtful stance.
Facing outrage, wise words can bring healing. Let’s try it!