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When “keeping it real” goes wrong!

There are moments in life when people successfully get under our skin and “make” us feel angry.

I put the word “make” in quotes because in actuality, no one can make us angry without our consent. We are the ones who choose to take others seriously. We are the ones who decide to assign meaning and value to the words other people say and the actions they perform. At anytime, we can do the work necessary to alter our perceptions and change our beliefs, thereby liberating ourselves from anger.

Regardless of our personal responsibility, however, there are certainly moments when people seem to make us angry. What can we do in moments like this? How do we get through the day when dealing with someone who pushes all the right buttons and makes us feel as if steam is rising up through our heads?

Our own worst enemy

Usually when we find ourselves in the presence of a provocative person, we’re keenly aware of some simple action we could take to alleviate the situation and move on. In some cases, however, we choose to opt for a path that only escalates the tension.

A common example:

When someone cuts us off on the highway, we could just choose to give way, leave them alone, and be thankful that we were alert enough to make a smart driving decision that ensured our safety. But instead, we find ourselves honking the horn relentlessly, while shouting or signaling obscenities to a driver we probably wont change and will likely never encounter again.

Not all of us struggle with road rage, but the theme is common to a variety of scenarios. We’re going through life minding our own business. Someone does something we don’t approve of and, although we praise the idea of being the bigger person in theory, it feels far more gratifying in the moment to protest, insult, have the last word, or give that individual a piece of our minds in some shape or fashion.

When keeping it real goes wrong

The comedian, David Chapelle, once did a segment on his hourly sketch show titled “When keeping it real goes wrong.”

This segment involved someone who was the victim of some minor slight directed at him by an insensitive party. At the precise moment of the offense, the victim would be faced with a dilemma: Do they choose to let things slide and “keep it cool” or do they “keep it real” by retaliating? Of course, with this being a comedy sketch, the victim would always choose to keep it real.

Unfortunately, there was usually some factor at play that the victim could not have anticipated; Perhaps the person they lashed back at was a 3rd degree black belt in martial arts who was out looking for a good fight or something else of that sort. Whatever the particulars, it suffices to say that it always ended in a humiliating manner for the person who kept it real.

This sketch provides a humorous, yet poignant, illustration of how being the bigger person may not only be the noble way of dealing with anger inducing people, but also the practical and safe way as well.

In my next post, I’ll elucidate this point and make a case for why certain socially acceptable and seemingly instinctive responses to anger may not be as harmless as we suppose. I’ll then provide my two cents on how to maintain control and be the bigger person when you feel your buttons are being pushed.

I’m looking forward to sharing with you.


T.K. Coleman

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Hi T.K.
    I agree that no one can make us angry without our consent, especially in the light of the fact that whenever I harbor a resentment I (if I am honest and open to really look) have a part to play in that resentment. For example, if I become angry because someone who owes me money hasn’t paid it back on time, I need to examine why I put myself in that particular business deal in the first place. It’s possible I had an intuitive hunch I chose not to follow because it just “felt” right or because I didn’t want the other person to get mad at me if I didn’t loan them the money—perhaps I simply wanted them to like me—whatever the reason, I put myself in that situation. In other words, when I look for my own part in the resentment then I can more clearly see the path to acceptance and non-retaliation. I may even be better able to move to a place of forgiveness. And not only that, if I am harboring intense (or low level) anger, I am harming the other person, I am harming the world and therefore I need to make amends.
    Finally, T.K., I have found two more things about anger that I’d like to share. The first is that most of my anger or resentments are because I carried unreasonable or unmet expectations into a situation. And when these aren’t met to my specifications I have a temper tantrum, just like a little kid. I may not show it—I may put a big grin on my face, but beware—the passive aggressive anger is just as destructive as regular aggression, and perhaps even more so.
    The second thing is that since anger is a real emotion, a real HUMAN emotion, I will, from time to time, feel it, no matter how spiritual I get. Jesus knocked over tables in the temple. And we don’t need to cut Him any slack just because He had “righteous indignation.” If I tried going to a local church and smashing things up, just because I felt righteous, we’ll see where that leads me. If I am justifying or rationalizing anything I am probably in the wrong. But anyway, the point is, just as there are storms in nature, there will be storms within myself sometimes.
    So what do I do with the real feeling of anger? The key is to find healthy ways to release the energy, because, like all emotions, anger is physical. One of my favorite things to do is smash piles of sticks or wood with a baseball bat. Really. It feels great. I also have hit the bed with a tennis racket. I have twisted towels, punched punching bags, and so on. I also write songs or stories, or go for walks. And nearly every time I let go of the rage, I end up crying, but that’s another story.
    If I can positively release the anger then there is less of a chance I will take it out on another driver, a check-out person at the grocery store, a waitress, or my kids. There is less of a chance I will need to stuff the anger down and then have to seek comfort in destructive behaviors because the pressure is too great.
    Anyway, thank you T.K. for inspiring more food for thought and positive actions. Cheers, Joseph

  2. Joseph, these thoughts are solid gold. In fact, they are so good I decided to share your insights in the latest blog for those who may not read the comments. Great stuff, bro. Your feedback is highly appreciated.



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