To be clear, the comma is important. I’m not talking about anger poops — like anger eating, or anger sex or anger driving or anger cleaning. Nope. Not that kind. But if you ever get so angry that you poop, then that’s awesome and we should talk and I should write a blog about it.
Also, sorry mom, if you’re reading this. I said “poop” so many times. But it only gets crappier from here.
See, I’ve had stomach issues on and off since I was nineteen or so — going on ten years. I’ve found I’ve got to pay attention to my own defecation. It says so much, a sermon for my digestive ears. I mean it.
For example, *WARNING I’M GOING TO TALK ABOUT MY POOP* I’ve learned to listen to the fact that I have loose stool almost every time I number two. I guess for a while I was just used to it. Slightly uncomfortable. Lots of clean up. Extra time. People wondering if I “fell in” (hilarious joke, let me tell you… soooo original).
But for real, once I learned to tune into that, really get up close and listen to what the toilet-dwellers were declaring, I found there’s a lot of nuance the message.
I’ve learned dairy is tough for me. I’ve learned I can’t really have coffee on an empty stomach (or really much at all, but I’m still in denial about it). I’ve learned water helps, sugar doesn’t. I've learned stress is factor. I’ve gotten into essential oils, Metamucil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar. Ingesting weird stuff is built into my morning routine now.
It’s been a process, and all because I learned to smell my poop. I mean listen.
It’s counter intuitive to interface with your own poop. We want to flush that crap down (see what I did there?). It smells; it’s uncomfortable. We want to say “I’m here. That’s down there, away from me.” Down the pipes and of sight is even better.
Turns out anger is similar.
We want to make anger all about a thing that’s done to us (i.e. "you, over there, did this to me, over here, and that is why I am angry!”). But when we fling anger away from ourselves like that, we actually don’t collect near the amount of data we could.
Now, to be fair, expressing your anger is healthy. It can be good motivating energy. In fact, Jesus turned over tables because he was angry.
If I was walking down the street and somebody just ran over punched my wife, I’d be so angry and I would do everything I could to get that joker away from my wife, including maybe giving him a stern talking to.
And I know that’s an absurd example, because I’ll never be married.
But now that we’ve cleared that out of the way, the whole it’s-true-that-people-do-horrible-things-and-sometimes-you-just-got-to-respond thing… let my tell you about the other ninety-nine percent of anger, the iceberg below the surface, if you will.
WAIT FOR IT
tells you about hurt.
Okay. You can leave. You have all the homework you need for, like, a decade.
But no, I mean it. I’m obsessive about introspection. It’s so useful. So, for me I consider this 101.
Anger is pain.
Wait! One more time!
say it with me….
“THAT GUY’S FAULT OVER THERE! F&%K HIM!!!!!!!!!”
No! No! Wrong! Wait! Come back! No fly zone. Danger Will Robinson!!!!
Anger is pain.
Pain inside you.
So that’s the first step, and when you’re okay with that step, then come back and read the rest of the blog in a few years.
You devil, you! I know you built a time machine, I saw you!
Okay, glad that you know about anger.
You can only change yourself.
"BUT I HAVE KIDS! IT’S MY JOB TO SHAPE THEIR LITTLE WORLDVIEW AND STUFF!"
Sure it is! You’ll do your very best and they’ll still, ultimately, do whatever they want. Your job is to parent well and their job is to respond well, see? I mean even Jesus had a Judas, right?
"BUT I NEED TO FIX ALL THE PEOPLE AT MY CHURCH!!!!!"
You can be a beautiful, persuasive voice, sure. But at the end of the day…
You change you — that’s all you can do.
Okay, now that we’ve had twenty years’ worth of introspection lessons, I’m going to give you more.
Just like with crappy poops, you can glean all kinds of change agents from your anger.
You’re mad about work? Great. Be upset that Sally does blah and blah and your boss does such and such. We can assume for the sake of the example that you’re right, they’re wrong and they’re horrible people. Good. Now….
Where is the pain inside you?
What does it tell you about you?
Have you felt this pain before?
Oh really? Where? How did you feel about it then? How did you end up in that situation? Is this current situation charged with THAT pain? That old pain that’s from that past thing?
Are you afraid? Is there a belief being challenged? Are you concerned something will be taken from you?
What does this pain tell you about what you want?
And, one more time, where does it hurt inside you?
Listen, listen, listen to that.
But, I mean, if you really want to rehash the narrative of how right you are and wrong they are… then go ahead! Be miserable! Keep throwing your little ego a lifeline! That's your deal.
Anyhow, best case, your anger can tell you good stuff about what you value, what you desire, what helps you feel nourished and free. See, anger is pain, and it’s telling you all about situations that are troubling you, right? Situations that you can draw boundaries around, and change. Remember, you can’t change others, but you can change…
Where you show up
How much you charge for that thing you do
Who you spend your time with
How many abusive words you will hear before you choose to leave the room
These are just random examples.
While we’re here, where most people don’t want to hang out, let me give you some bad news:
Even if you’re great at this process, you will still feel pain. Actually, more vividly. And sometimes you just need to feel pain and grieve. Sometimes that's all there is to do. But thank God you don’t have to store that pain and anger.
And what is the best way to not store anger in the inner closets of your soul?
Go ahead and feel it.
And then adjust as needed.
And, oddly, this means you’ll feel anger in a more efficient manner. You can go ahead and feel the pain, draw the boundary, embrace the grief… maybe punch the guy occasionally.
“Now, how does this have anything to do with God?”
Glad you asked, Cynical Voice In My Head.
Everything. See, I love to listen to the Holy Spirit. Through introspection, I can be the type of person who is ready to get onboard with what God is doing, how God is moving in me. I hate it, but I’ve noticed that pain is often the very place God wants me to pull up a chair, make eye contact and get to know me. Don’t yell at me — I didn’t make it this way.
But I think we can all suit up, tool up in a way that’s congruent with and helpful to God.
Insert quippy poop joke.
Jesus, I get that sometimes I gotta flip tables, but help me bring awareness to where anger is shining. Meet me there, teach me stuff and, most importantly, connect us there. Amen.