Monday, November 4, 2013
Angry Words Suffocate Gentle Curiosity, Wonder, and Imaginative Thought
“When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.” Thomas Jefferson
These days, it so often seems, there exists in our personalities a smoldering rage that bubbles just below the surface of our socially acceptable facades. This is a rage that is fed by our frustrations, inadequacies, insecurities, failures and all such negative attributes which derive their energy from all of the “I can’ts” and “You can’ts” being shouted into our self-esteems by the world. Not good enough. Not strong enough. Not fast enough. Not smart enough. Not rich enough. Not attractive enough. Not funny enough. Not serious enough. Never ever ever enough. In the shadow of that glaring though unachievable truth we pout and stew and lament that there looms an elusive something that we, who have prided ourselves on having it all, cannot have. Unacceptable. Anger is stirred. We run faster, jump higher, work longer, laugh louder, and even so, it is never ever enough. Rather than jumping off this ludicrous merry-go-round, we hang on more tightly, as the world whirls by, never advancing, only in place. If we could just jump off and steady our feet in the stillness, we might begin to know the feel of being content. The peace of looking inside one’s own heart and realizing that enough means simply having what one needs. But we cannot jump off. We are compelled to stay on because everyone else is staying on being angry alone together about all that we do not have that we really believe we should have, we deserve. We silently seethe. Because the bubbling rage we feel dare not be seen at work where its appearance could cost position or among those whose power or prestige might be beneficial in the climb toward more, we save our rage release for home, where temporarily we can slow the merry-go-round at least long enough to allow our emotions to catch up with our pace. With no one to impress for gain, we become ourselves and the anger shows. Impatience, inattentiveness, annoyance are all manifestations of our anger, and these become the norm for our children. Our collective fuse is short, our tempers flare, and we raise our voices with angry eyes flashing for incidents and behavior undeserving of such wrath. This persists as the expected culture around home and our children who long for our hearts receive this toxic and sad culture instead day after day after day after day. They learn from us. They learn this from us. They then bring this to school, to their friendships and all interpersonal interactions, because this is what they know. As a teacher, this is very challenging to undo. This is very challenging to penetrate and to heal. Children live what they learn is a very old adage and very true. Where there is anger, there is also fear, and where there is fear, optimal learning can never occur. Where there is anger, there is a clamoring for protection which is driven by the insecurity that a culture of anger creates. Where there is anger, curiosity, wonder, and imaginative thought will suffocate because gentle musings will always retreat when met toe to toe with the fierceness and fear of anger. Who pays the price for our inability or unwillingness to understand beauty of contentedness? Who bears the brunt of our endless, exhausting merry-go-round ride? Who just wants us and our time undivided, while we race about chasing one more material item to make our children happy? We have this all wrong. Our children long for our love, our smiles, our hugs, story time, joyous laughter together, silly fun projects worked on together; our children long for us. We give them our anger because we cannot give them the things that the neighbors have. Things. We pay far too high a price for things. We need to jump off the merry-go-round and play with our children. And if we feel angry, we need to count to ten. Thomas Jefferson surely had that right.