A natural response to one’s own anger is to transfer the punishment to someone else, whether that punishment was deserved by the angered person or by someone at whom the angered person is…well, angry. It’s the whole “Dad got in trouble from the boss, Dad comes home and snaps at Mom, Mom snaps at teenage daughter, teenage daughter snaps at little brother, little brother kicks the dog.”
In my adult life, I’ve consciously tried not to kick the metaphorical dog. When my internet provider wouldn’t send me my bills after repeatedly asking them to and kept charging me late fees, I didn’t yell at the customer service representative on the other end of the line. I told her I knew it wasn’t her fault, that I just wanted someone to help me. When an overworked coworker gave me an earful for not communicating with her as well as I should have, I apologized and told her I didn’t mean to add to her stress, because it was all clearly bearing down on her. I didn’t yell at anyone else, and that coworker and I worked together quite well after that incident.
I’ve undoubtedly slipped up and transferred my frustration onto others, but I try not to. One thing that helps me remember not to is when someone transfers their anger onto me.
I won’t say who it was or what project the person is involved in, but an historic property owner in town came into my office last week per my request that we meet to discuss some potential conflicts between his application for work he wishes to do on his property and what our governmental guidelines say is allowed.
He already knew I wouldn’t have good news for him.
He had previously told me that he was scraping by to pay for the repairs of the building.
He had just come from another one of his properties where a major leak was causing damage.
He had been up since just before 5 a.m.
Summary: this man wasn’t happy, and he was looking for a dog to kick. Who better than the 26-year-old government worker girl?
It didn’t matter that I told him I wanted to work with him and discuss viable options to keep him in compliance with the guidelines. It didn’t matter that I apologized for the confusion surrounding which and how many agencies from which he has to get documentation. It didn’t matter that I told him I wasn’t taking sides, I was just doing my job.
I was the scruffy little family mutt at the end of the line in importance to him, and his foot was drawn back before he even walked in the door.
To this applicant’s credit, he didn’t hurl any personal attacks and he acknowledged that he understood I was just doing my job. But that didn’t soften his 45-minute berating. I was shaking by the time he left. Not because I was afraid of him and not because I was unsure of myself; I was simply rattled from having someone yelling in my face about something I have no power to change.
My best friend works in retail, and I know what I experienced is probably nothing compared to what he faces every day. And I know I’ll probably get used to people yelling at me after awhile (especially since I’ve already got the stigma on me that I’m trying to tell them what to do with their own property, take their land or directly represent their least favorite politician). But right now, I’m just not used to it.
Guys, my chest was tight all day. It stayed tight as I tried to sleep. An event that had occurred nearly 11 hours earlier was threatening to rob me of sleep, a key ingredient in reducing my stress from the day and helping me meet the next day with optimism.
As a tear slipped across my temple and onto the pillow, a Calmness greeted me. That Calmness said, “You know, Monica, you’ve got a lot to be joyful about. You’ve got a Savior Who loves you and died for you and took your sin – even when you’re the one yelling at the worker who didn’t personally wrong you and is just doing her job. You’ve got the man in your life who God made for you, the man who is the result of God’s planning, God’s timing and God’s earnest ear attuned to the many years of prayers from you, your future husband, both your parents and other loved ones. You’ve got a job that offers you opportunities to learn new things and excel at those things, a job you don’t dread going to five days a week. You’ve got parents who have and will always stand behind you, love you and encourage you, but will also give you direction and be honest with you when you’re in the wrong. You’ve got friends who share lunches and dinners and TV show binges with you. You’ve got other friends who live hours away, but who treat every reunion as if the last one was a day ago.
“You’ve got so much good stuff going on, so much warmth, that there’s no room in your veins for you blood to turn cold.”
And I fell right to sleep. My own little George Bailey moment lulling me off to rest.
Maybe I sound like a crazy person. Maybe I sound cliche. Maybe I sound whiny and fragile. Well, that’s okay, because this whatever-it-was – a meditation, if you want to call it that – gave me what I needed to forget the bad stuff and bring in the good stuff.
It kept me from kicking a dog the next day.