Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Justified Anger

“Come over to Aisle 4” the cashier announced. The decision to stay in line or make the bold move to another lane needs to be made in an instant. In that instant, I decided to move over to aisle 4. That’s when I saw the man rushing, not from another line, mind you, but from the main part of the store down this aisle. As we were equidistant from the cashier (and I was just waiting in another line when the lane opened), I had no problem stepping into line in front of him just before he reached the cashier. I placed my purchases on the belt and waited for the cashier to ring up the customer in front of me.

Shortly after, I heard a woman behind me talking loudly. “Yes, I saw that. For someone to just cut in front of you is rude.” She continued on and on. This was obviously his wife coming into the scene a little tardy. I did not view myself as having done anything wrong in this moment. When a new lane opens, it is just common knowledge that those waiting in other lanes have priority. As my friend pointed out when I relayed this story to her, it is, in reality, priority for those in the front of those already formed lines. There is always an awkward moment when a new lane forms and everyone believes they are in the right.

This woman just would not let up! Her comments that were clearly directed about me (although not directed to me) were loud and causing a scene. I turned around and politely asked, “Were you in another line?” The woman, I think surprised by the fact that I decided to speak to her, answered, “No”.

“Well, we were. And she opened the new lane for those in line to come over,” I replied in a calm tone of voice that usually does not accompany these types of emotion.

“Did she say that?” the woman inquired.

“She said you can come over to aisle 4.” (I see now that this is just a matter of individual interpretation.)

“I was just trying to explain to my children that it is rude to cut in line” she continued to speak loudly.

“If it means that much to you, you are welcome to go in front of me,” I not so graciously offered.

“No,” she said firmly.

“I just attempted to rectify the situation.” I said (surprisingly still in a calm voice). “But I’m sorry you don’t want to.” I turned my back to her and focused my attention to the transaction at hand.

I could still hear her behind me, “Don’t listen to anything she said boys.”

Seriously?! I was angry that this woman insisted that I did something wrong. I was angry that I was now questioning my actions and my attitude when she was the one blowing this up into a big scene. While I realize that I could have made the situation better or avoided the confrontation entirely, I still believe I understand checkout etiquette better than she did. I walked away feeling pretty good about the fact that I responded to her in a calm fashion and chalked it up to a victory in not allowing my anger to get out of hand.

This morning I was reading Gary Chapman’s book, Anger, Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way in preparation for a group study that I obviously need. He says that “anger is the emotion that arises whenever we encounter what we perceive to be wrong”. This scenario quickly popped into my mind. I felt I was wronged. She felt she was wronged. We both believed we were right. Mr. Chapman goes on to say that “anger originates in the perception that something is wrong and that this sense of morality (some things are right and some things are wrong) finds its root in the fact that we are created in the image of God who is holy and has established moral law for the good of His creatures.” He continues to say that “We should thank God for our capacity to experience anger. When one ceases to experience anger, one has lost her sense of moral concern.”

See! I just have concern for the morality of our country! (Or maybe this scenario has nothing to do with that at all.) I’m sure Mr. Chapman will go on to talk more about this, but I’m guessing that as a Christ-follower, it is more important how I handle my anger rather than simply feeling justified in it. As I look back on my situation at the check-out counter, I realize that while it was fairly late at night, this woman was shopping with her husband and children and probably was ready to get home and get her kids into bed. I have no idea what had been going on in her day and this was an opportunity I could have taken the high road. That high road could have been to see a situation with a man and his children rather than just the “right v. wrong” of the situation, being grateful my children were not with me, and I would have waited and graciously (sincerely this time) allowed him to step in line in front of me. Considering I didn’t do that, the road God probably would have liked me to take would have been to say, “I’m sorry. I can see how you would believe I cut in line.” I would have gathered up my stuff, stepped behind her in line and allowed her children to witness that sometimes “justice” is not as important as kindness and the consideration of others.

Kindness: That’s a fruit of the Spirit. Showing the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit does not come naturally for me. It’s something I certainly need to work on. At the same time, I am so overwhelmingly grateful for God’s grace. Could have’s… Should have’s… Would have’s… While I make a lot of mistakes, I don’t have to live in light of them. I simply need to see how I could do better in the next situation and live life today.

What would I do without God's grace?

1 comment:

  1. I think I could use that book. I may have to invest in it, and even though I couldn't join the group this time around I think I need to read it. Oh, and I would have totally been on your side in the check out line in the heat of the moment.