Yesterday I watched as a piñata crafted to look like Donald Trump was decapitated while the surrounding crowd cheered on. It seems, everywhere you look in America these days, you see expressions of full-blown, off the chain, rage. We are a divided country right now and as the divide gets bigger, so do the public displays of rage induced behavior. What’s going on?
I Know a Little About Rage
When I was overdosed by my nurse just over five years ago, I felt it so deeply that I lost all perspective. I was initially intent on forgiveness, but as my recovery lingered beyond weeks, into months and then years, rage began to live in my soul. The world was carrying on, and I was being left behind. I lost my job; I lost friends, I lost so much because of the stupid acts of others. My anger — my rage — felt rational, but in fact, it was utterly irrational. I just wanted those people at that hospital to feel my pain. I didn’t want them vacationing, laughing or enjoying life. No, I wanted them to see me trembling and shaking as I walked. I wanted them to feel the pounding pain that racked my body. I wanted the world to know what they had done to me and, I was going to scream as loud as I had to until they were brought to their knees.
Finally, the day of my revenge came. Once Phillip headed off to work and the kids to school, I packed up my car and drove to the place where my life was changed forever. With me, I brought a sign that had pictures of me before the overdose and then pictures of me with my large surgical scar on the back of my head. In huge, bold letters I wrote, X hospital did this to me. Are you sure your loved ones are safe? As I got out of my car, my sign slipped out of my hands. An older gentleman, who was leaving the hospital picked it up and handed back to me. As he did, he asked if I was ok. Shaking my head no, I pointed to my sign and told him I would be once the world knew what had happened to me. “Ah yes, ” He nodded his head in understanding. Then he asked, “How will doing this make anything better in your life?” Offended by his question, for the next 15 minutes, I threw every argument at him for how and why I needed to trash the hospital like they had trashed my body.
With every argument, filled with gentle eyes and soft, gentle mercy this stranger slowly nodded his head and then again asked, “But, how will doing this make anything better in your life? I had no good answer for him. I knew even though my protest would at first feel good, it would likely get me arrested, potentially bring shame to my family and absolutely nothing would change in my body. My legs would still tremble, I would still have a seizure disorder, the scar on the back of my head would never go away and, the chronic headaches would only continue. Though rage insisted that I needed to do something – that I needed to change something – the truth was it was only leading me down a path of more pain. Something needed to give and, in my case, it wasn’t the hospital – it was me.
After some more talking, the older gentleman wrote down Romans 12:21 on a piece of paper and told me to look it up when I got home. Then, we parted ways. I’ve never seen him again.
Once home, I read Romans 12:21.
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:21
In the quiet of my home, I realized I had let evil, in the form of unchecked rage, conquer me. Through my recovery, I was surrounded by a loving family but shut them out because of it. I had supportive friends, but I isolated myself from them sure they didn’t understand my pain. I had allowed my justified anger to boil over and consume me. I was no longer a gentle and kind woman. I was an unrecognizable person of rage.
The Fallacy of Full Blown, Off the Chain, Rage
The fallacy of full-blown, off the chain, rage is that you have to act upon it, and when you do, things will get better. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Consider Ferguson Missouri: After a lifetime of despair, hundreds of men and women took to the streets overwhelmed by feelings of being disenfranchised swelled to the surface. They were determined to be seen, heard and understood. I believe, they wanted their lives to be changed for the better. However, the rage that conquered them compelled them to act irrationally and burn their community down. Rage blinds people.
Consider middle schools and high schools: Every year, girls and boys are overwhelmed by feelings of rejection and hopelessness. Lacking emotional maturity, they are like a pot on a stove that is simmering. Finally, there is a trigger that tips them into outright rage. They bring guns and weapons into their schools with the intent to maim and kill. Rage destroys people.
Consider the current election cycle: During a typical election year people debate, people argue, and people engage in dirty politics. This year, however, is very different. Years of disillusionment with politicians has led to mounting anger. The people are tired of their voices not being heard and have decided that this is the time — this is the year — that they Will. Be. Heard. After months of arguing, that anger is developing into a rage where there are horrible hate filled exchanges, sucker punches being thrown and even the decapitating effigy of a Presidential candidate. Friends, if we don’t get control of this, I fear what will come next. Rage destroys communities and perhaps…countries.
What Does the Bible Say about Rage?
There is a better way.
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. Psalm 37:8
We as a nation need to stop and turn from our rage before we get to the point of no return. We need to exercise wisdom and self-control as this incredible teacher did recently as seen in the following YouTube video (some strong language). This is such an example of Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Listen, I get rage. I get how it consumes you at your very core. I understand how it compels you to do things you normally would never do. I know what it feels like to be forgotten and shamed and how those feelings chip away at self-control, grace, mercy, and love. I also understand, that choosing to let go of rage, and instead of replacing it with God’s love, is a far better, lovely and life-giving choice for us all. I didn’t say it was an easy choice — but is the best choice for me, you and all those you love.
How I wish I could find the older gentleman who stopped me that day. Though I imagine he will never read this, how I wish he would. His choice to see me, talk with me and help me put my life on a healing trajectory instead of one filled with greater pain and destruction. Perhaps, he was an angel in disguise? I’ll never know. But, I am indeed thankful for his sacrifice of love that helped to change my heart forever.
Let’s all be people who make sacrifices of love. Let’s all be people who with sober minds and thoughtful hearts choose love over hate and self-control over rage. Let’s follow the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23,
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Together, let’s do this!