How should I respond to angry people? And not just a little angry. But a lot. Like boiling mad to irrational rage? Especially as a Christ-follower. I was confronted with this question in a recent experience that took me by surprise. And here are my thoughts about it.
I was the last car in a line turning left at a traffic light. We all turned on the green arrow although it changed to yellow as I went through. I was in no hurry as I headed towards another light a block away to make another left into a small strip mall.
A short distance from the light I heard the roar of an engine and squeal of tires. In my rearview mirror I saw the incensed, contorted face of a driver tailgating me. He had been waiting to make a right turn on the opposite side of the light and I now gathered, was morally offended by my left hand turn.
So he broke the speed limit to catch up, nearly rear ended me in his haste and now drove recklessly, inches away from rear bumper to teach me a driving lesson. And when I stopped at the red light, he halted inches away from my rear bumper to drive home the point.
I responded in a perfectly calm and reasonable manner by throwing my car in park, jumping out and marching to the driver side window, throwing my hands in the air, and shouting, “What are you doing?”
It was completely reactive and impulsive on my part.
And if a brawny lad got out, it might be a problem. Although in my experience, brawny lads are seldom raging bullies, because they have nothing to prove. And true to form, this aggressive bully switched to victim mode and began video taping me on his phone.
So in case you see me on a social media post, please note my egregious act was making a legal left hand turn at a traffic light. But apparently, this driver on the opposite side of the light knew better.
Since he remained safely in his car, I returned to mine and turned into the strip mall as he now, bravely, continued to tailgate me, steering with one hand and video taping with the other. But drove on when I pulled into a parking space.
And here are some thoughts as I’ve had time to reflect and consider a more Godly response to angry people.
How should I respond to angry people? Maybe by offering compassion
People are on an emotional edge. Overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. Bottled up inside. And hidden so you don’t know who they are, what pressures are internally seething, or when a trivial incident will cause an eruption. Something troubling was already going on in the life of the driver I encountered. I simply triggered the explosion.
But I follow a compassionate God. Who instructs me to share the compassion I’ve received from him with others. It doesn’t mean I’m milk toast. Lay down and let people steam roll me. But to measure my response. And not view them as enemies. But people who are likely struggling. And probably need a friend. I don’t know what’s going on in their life. So maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt.
How should I respond to angry people? Maybe by demonstrating joy
Joy doesn’t mean wearing a dopey grin on my face all day. Telling an angry person I’ll pray for them or have a blessed day. That seems patronizing. But it does include silently asking God for his strength and self-control in the heat of a moment. And the goal to act, rather than react to the other person. Or not respond at all, but merely drive on.
It’s not that I don’t have struggles and bad days. I have both. But joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Something I possess in spite of difficult circumstances. And difficult people.
It’s the result of living with hope. Because I know God is faithful to his promise. And as a child of that promise, I see an eternal future which radically changes how I see the present. And a sense of meaning that extends way beyond navigating the turn at a traffic light.
So I can choose joy. To act rather than react. And let God’s strength be revealed in my weakness.
How should I respond to angry people? Maybe by extending grace
Grace is an undeserved pardon. That’s me as a sinner before a holy God. I don’t deserve his love or forgiveness. But he extends it anyway through his grace. And as an unworthy recipient, I’m charged by scripture to extend it to others.
I forget this sometimes. Probably because I so quickly return anger for anger and seek to defend myself. Grace requires a supernatural response. Similar to compassion but so much more. Because compassion leads to understanding and acceptance. But grace leads to eternal life. Because grace is granted by God to all who believe in and follow Jesus Christ.
And that’s another message I can share. But no one will hear it if I’m shouting in anger.
It wasn’t my absolute worst response to an angry person. But through the power of God, I can do better.
Let’s hear your angry story along with thoughts on Godly responses.
Finding Grace is a Christian detective novel. And this is the first chapter. Finding Grace is the second novel in a series that began with Soul Pursuit. Finding Grace and Soul Pursuit are both available on Amazon.
I sat in an upright positioned, recliner chair across from Charles and Deborah Miller who rigidly shared the couch. We were in a well-appointed living room in their Washington Township home, which was tastefully decorated in the latest fashions and highest standards of home design.
There was a lever on the right side of the chair for reclining in different layout positions, a semi-layout for comfortable reading, and a complete layout for napping. And in between positions, if you weren’t fully committed to either and wanted to nap with an open book in your lap.
I resisted the urge to pull the lever.
Relaxing before an uptight couple wasn’t a good idea. Not sure if they were uptight because of their situation or just in general.
They looked composed at the moment. Charles looked trendy in his business casual slacks and Polo shirt, while Deborah, tastefully put together wearing a dress and makeup, would fit right in at a Junior League luncheon. But I sensed they were tightly wound, like two coiled springs about to release. Might be good to avoid that.
Deborah’s hands were folded in her lap, but in a constant, wringing motion. Charles sporadically tapped his right foot on the carpet. Fast tapping for a minute and then slower, more purposeful the next. Fluctuating emotions in syncopated rhythm. His foot was the drum major. Keeping time to whatever tune was playing in his head.
They had invited me in, politely introduced themselves and asked me to sit. I was unsure who was supposed to start the conversation. I decided to let them, which led to an awkward silence. But now I felt obligated to it.
They called this meeting, and I was an audience of one. So, I wore my professional mask, inoffensive, non-committal, and politically neutral.
Charles finally spoke.
“Our daughter is a freshman at the University of Dayton,” he said, “and we’ve lost contact with her. Haven’t heard from her in weeks.”
“Did she stop calling suddenly or gradually over time?” I asked.
“Gradually,” Charles answered.
“She’s a commuter,” said Deborah, “and at the beginning of the semester, she was home every night and most weekends. But as she made friends, she began staying with them on campus.”
“For campus social life,” I said.
“We expected her to engage socially,” said Charles. “That’s a part of college. At first, she called us regularly. But as the semester went on, it became less frequent. Until nothing.”
“Were you concerned when the calls became less frequent?”
“Not at first,” said Deborah. “Grace told us she was studying more on campus and joining campus activities. We thought it good she was becoming her own person.”
“When did you suspect things weren’t right?”
“We began to notice a difference in her when she came home,” said Charles.
“And one time when I called her at school, she was…out of it,” said Deborah.
“Like drunk or high?”
Deborah swallowed and looked at the floor. It was hard for her to admit. But she forced it out in a voice just slightly above a whisper.
“How long since nothing?” I asked.
“Six weeks,” said Charles.
“Was she dating anyone? Any reason to believe someone would hurt her?”
“No to both,” said Charles. “She’s a good kid. But she’s never had this much freedom over her schedule before.”
“And maybe it’s gotten a little out of control?”
“Did you file a missing person’s police report?”
“Of course,” said Charles.
He was getting defensive. Did he think I was questioning his commitment to being father of the year? I nodded in affirmation and widened the smile. A little less benign. A bit more sincere with a touch of empathy.
Of course, you’re father of the year. Husband too. Best boss ever. All-around good guy. And by the way, I accept check, cash, credit card and App payments.
“Routine investigation didn’t reveal anything,” he said. “At least nothing that indicated foul play. The detective told us college kids go through all kinds of adjustments. Especially freshmen. Said if we wanted something more thorough, we should consider a private detective.”
Charles tapped his foot faster and Deborah’s hand wringing turned white knuckled. More tightening. If they sprung now, they’d shoot through the ceiling.
Behind them on the couch, a large picture window presented a breezy Autumn day in Dayton, Ohio. The neighbor across the street was blowing leaves from his front yard to the curb, where a city truck would vacuum them up and haul them away for recycling. There was a sparse covering of leaves on the yard. The two large trees in the front yard were still over half-full. I congratulated myself for thinking half-full rather than half-empty. He could have waited longer to let more leaves fall before raking or blowing. But every homeowner was different. This one was probably a neat-freak extraordinary. Behind him, the yard was spotless. And he was halfway to the street with a neat line but was suddenly encountering two problems.
First, the leaves were slightly wet making them heavier and harder to blow. Second, he was blowing into a head wind. So, as the leaves launched into the air, they curled in the wind and floated back towards him, landing at his feet and even behind him. There was a rake leaning against one of the trees. An obvious solution. But he wasn’t having it. He had paid for this state-of-the-art technology and by golly, he was determined to use it.
Man and technology against nature. Old man and the sea. Captain Ahab and Moby Dick.
Maintaining the neat line was growing difficult and it clearly agitated him as he sped back and forth, trying to keep it together and move forwards towards the curb. I could see a lot of agitation on both sides of the street.
Dude, It’s okay. Use the rake. It’s not a sign of weakness.
But no. He was all in with the leaf blower. Except nature was blowing back and winning.
I refocused on Charles and Deborah.
“Assuming no foul play, any thoughts on what’s going on with Grace that might contribute to a disappearance?”
“She was struggling emotionally,” said Deborah.
Deborah’s hands reflected the intensity of her emotions. The higher the emotion, the greater the hand wringing. Was it her fault? Charles’s fault? Their fault?
“I…uh, our marriage has been struggling too,” said Charles.
“More like unraveling,” said Deborah.
“It’s taken an emotional toll on Grace,” Charles said.
“What did you expect? Learning that all those nights you said you were working late…you weren’t working.”
His face clouded.
“So, you start an affair as revenge and that’s supposed to help?”
They separated a little further on the couch and turned slightly to face one another. I was neither a marriage counselor nor a referee but wished I had a whistle to call a time out. Another awkward silence. Except this one bristled and I braced for ugly.
The neighbor across the street was making progress. He was down to two especially stubborn leaves. Big, wet, broad leaves that clung stubbornly to the grass, and when he did get a pocket of air underneath, curled up into the wind and blew right back to him.
Only two leaves, Dude. Pick them up and walk them down to the curb.
But there was a principle here. A contest. He had established rules that must be followed. An unbreakable code. And apparently, picking up the leaves and carrying them to the street was a violation. He must win the battle with technology.
But his blower lacked the air power to overcome the wind. Rather than admit defeat, he grew angry and more determined. He started punching the blower at the leaves like that extra umph would make the difference. And somehow, it worked. Or maybe the wind just died down. But regardless, the two leaves scooted steadily towards the street, and I silently cheered for him.
C’mon, Dude. You can do it. Keep delivering those air punches. They’re working.
Finally, the remaining two leaves were on the pile. The man turned to survey the yard. Victory at last. While the couple I faced looked more defeated.
“Does Grace have friends on campus I can talk to?”
“Susan and Julie were girls she knew. Fellow Centerville High School graduates a couple of years ahead of her. She stayed with them several times.”
Charles handed me a piece of paper with the names of the two girls and their cell phone numbers. The air was thick with tension. And I said the only thing I could think of to ease it.
“I’ll find her for you.”
Click here to purchase a copy of Finding Grace on Amazon.
The fiction novel Finding Grace is a Christian Detective novel. It is the second book in my series that began with Soul Pursuit. The main character is Jack Sterling, a former Navy SEAL, who works as a private detective for Glenn Howard, a retired Brigadier General. The story takes place in Dayton, Ohio.
The fiction novel Finding Grace involves a plot to find a missing person
In Soul Pursuit, Jack confronts Christianity for the first time. He resists it at first, but eventually faces a spiritual crises and makes the decision to follow Jesus Christ. In Finding Grace, Jack begins to learn how to live out his new faith in daily life.
Jack is hired to find Grace Miller, a freshman at the University of Dayton who is missing. And judging by the leads he uncovers, her journey follows a degrading path of moral decline.
Can he find her? And if so, in what condition?
The fiction novel Finding Grace follows the theme of God’s grace
We all mess up. The Bible calls it sin. And clearly communicates God’s grace as the solution to sin. So talking about God’s grace offers people hope. But experiencing God’s grace is transformational.
And this theme of grace is explored throughout the novel through characters and dialogue.
It appears Grace is in trouble. Will she experience that transformational grace or is Jack too late?
The fiction novel Finding Grace involves a sub-plot about Paxco, LLC.
Soul Pursuit also introduces the mysterious Paxco, LLC. It is buying up all the property on his street and Jack wants to know why. But the novel ends with that mystery unsolved. However, in Finding Grace, Jack is determined to find out.
Because now, only two neighbors remain on his street. And one of them is receiving foreclosure notices from the bank.
But learning who the owners are turns out to be harder than expected. And a greater threat than to just his neighborhood.
About Chip Tudor:
Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and freelance copywriter. He publishes humorous Christian drama, books, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.
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