The Latest Rage

for the week of August 6, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

It appears to be the rage right now: rage, that is. It comes in all varieties — road rage, grocery store rage, airplane rage, youth sports rage, restaurant rage, standing-in-line rage, can't-get-in-line rage, etc. There seems to be no end of short tempers and bad manners on public display these days.

Think about the sports pages of your newspaper. Poor sportsmanship and anger literally "beat out" scores and game highlights. The fiercest action is in the stands. A Texas mother slaps the mother of a girl on the winning basketball team at the end of the game. A Florida high school baseball coach breaks an umpire's jaw after a disputed call. A Massachusetts father beats another father to death in an argument over rough play at their sons' hockey practice.

All sorts of explanations are offered for this epidemic of anger. Social scientists blame stress, high expectations, and multi-tasking (whatever that is!). This isn't merely a psychological problem. It's a moral issue that reflects a lack of the virtue called self-control. It is a lack of respect for other people and reflects the childish sentiment some never outgrow that everything must happen my way.

If Jesus taught his disciples to suffer persecution for the gospel without retaliating and to turn the other cheek to personal insults, what implications do you think his teachings have for getting cut off in traffic or a referee's bad call?

The late Henri Nouwen told the story of John and Sandy. "We've never had an argument," said John. "Let's have a squabble like other people have."

"But how do we start an argument?" asked Sandy.

"It's very simple," replied John. "I take a brick and say, ‘It's mine,' and then you say, ‘No, it's mine.'" And then we have an argument. So they sat down to find out what quarreling was like, and John took a brick and said, "This brick is mine."

Sandy looked over at him gently and said, "Well, if it is yours, take it."

Where did I get the idea that I am entitled to everything I want whenever I want it? Has our materialistic and narcissistic age so infected us all that no one can do without, wait her turn, or lose an athletic contest? Do others have rights?

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the sight of everybody," said the apostle Paul. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:17-18).

If you're clutching a brick of anger or resentment today, don't let fly. Let go!

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