On every journey we take, my son pesters me to have one of the mints I keep in the car. The other day I said he could have one and he secretly took several, but I noticed…and totally blew my top with him. Whoops!
In my mind this anger was about his bad behaviour. What it is more likely, however, is that it was really about several things: my annoyance that he hadn’t cleaned out the chicken coop last Saturday…and, in fact, resentment about all the times he hasn’t done what he was told. So it was about unresolved issues and a harbouring of unforgiveness. Yikes.
It was also my own impatience issues and perhaps a bit of greed about having my own stash of mints! There was probably some short temper from being overtired from my busy life with work and four kids; perhaps a little anger at my own sins and shortcomings; maybe a touch of stress from pressures at work; and perhaps a few deep Freudian issues stemming from my relationship with my dad! I think you get the picture. There are always more reasons than the obvious ones.
It has been said that anger (or unforgiveness and resentment) is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. What does anger do for us? I suppose it motivates us to challenge or change things that make us unhappy or uncomfortable. Perhaps it raises bravery within us, which we might need to defend ourselves.
Of course, we can have righteous anger about things that are not right in the world. However, I struggle to find many situations where anger does much more than heighten our own selfishness and entitlement. We get angry when things don’t go our way or when people don’t do what we want or expect them to.
What can we learn about ourselves each time we get angry? It is important to understand when anger is positive and helping us, and when it is negative and damaging to us.
Draw a line as below. At one end write ‘About me’ and at the other ‘About others’. Ask your mentee to list a few times when they remember getting angry or annoyed this week. Choose one to write above the line. Below each heading, ask them to list as many things as possible they have learned from that anger. When the list is exhausted, put a line through the answers and add five more!
The crossed-out answers will be the overly obvious ones, so wait in silence until they can add two more, then one more. This bit can be awkward, but push it as far as you can. Sometimes a bit of awkwardness is the only way to get to the real answers below the surface; to get your mentee to think beyond what they feel they should say and reflect more deeply about what is really going on.
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