FEAR, ANGER, HATRED, VIOLENCE
By NANCY PATRICK
We often find ourselves in situations that irk us in various ways. Most of us want our own way and do not appreciate interference from others. Human beings begin life as selfish little babies who have no inclination to care about others. As we mature, most of us develop a social conscience that allows us to participate in society. Even so, reining in our natural tendencies goes against the grain—makes us irritable and dissatisfied. It might even make us mad!
Although not necessarily a bad emotion, anger may grow beyond a temporary feeling of frustration. Then is the time we need to examine the root causes of that anger. I began keeping track of my “mad” episodes to see what triggered them. I noticed that tiny disturbances in my routine could trigger my anger. For example, too many cloudy days in a row make me blue (an old expression my mom used for feeling down). Waiting longer than I expected in the doctor’s office became a real nuisance. Grocery shoppers who read all the labels got in my way and slowed me down. You get the picture.
I have recently observed in Abilene several incidents revealing a frightening degree of rage. One occurred as I drove on Buffalo Gap Road one evening during rush hour. I saw another driver inadvertently go in front of a fellow driver who became angry and immediately sped up and cut the offending driver off. He then dropped back and got behind the driver so he could follow him. When the person pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot, the angry young man pulled up next to him, jumped out of his car, ran to the other driver’s parked car and kicked it as hard as he could. He then jumped back into his car and drove away.
I mention these minor incidents to illustrate the path to dangerous anger that we see in society these days. Several years ago as I taught a class at McMurry University, the school received notice that a road rage incident at the intersection of Sayles and South 14th had resulted in a murder. The incident revealed not only the extreme anger people feel at something as minor as being cut off in traffic but also the availability of fire arms to citizens. Both drivers in this incident had loaded guns and drew on each other.
I understand anger and frustration when others inconvenience us. I experience the same thing. What confuses and terrifies me relates to the uncontrolled and unprovoked anger and hatred that cause people to commit mass murder. Over the past 19 years, the United States has experienced approximately 40 such massacres (depending on the source). Whether school, church, or synagogue shootings, mall assaults, white supremacy attacks, club carnages, festival slaughters, work place outbursts, or ethnic atrocities, the terrorists who murder innocent people all act out of similar motivations.
What fills so many people with anger and violence? Could fear provoke the hatred that leads to murder? Fear motivates many dangerous behaviors. I once watched a documentary about the apartheid issue in South Africa. The white landowners said they would do anything necessary to preserve their way of life. They dismissed the human cost of apartheid as necessary to sustain the status quo. They had blinded themselves to the human misery of others in order to retain their property, status, and wealth.
I pray that Americans do not share the same mentality. Naturally, those of us who live in comfort and plenty would like to enjoy that forever. Abundance makes sharing easy, but when something jeopardizes our space, jobs, health care, education, or family, we begin to assess available resources to judge how much we can afford to share; in fact, we might fear losing what we have.
The fear of others who differ from us—whatever the specific reason—often leads to hatred. Hatred, a very dangerous and destructive emotion, often provokes actions that can cause irreversible damage to others and to us. Hatred robs us of our humanity. We must not let that happen. If we no longer empathize with the pain of others, if we begrudge a bed to the homeless, if we refuse a meal to the hungry, if we isolate ourselves from other human beings, then we disobey Christ’s instructions in Matthew 25:36: “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
To retain our dignity and humanity, we may need to live in a world with less individual material wealth so that others can have enough to live with dignity as well. We learned that lesson as children when new babies came into the family. As a family grew, the love and attention of parents spread to include all the children. We learned to love our siblings who had seemed like intruders on their first arrival. We learned to perform acts of love, selflessness, grace, and gratitude. Now we may need to welcome a wider family as our world continues to evolve.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 teaches the principle of sharing from our plenty with those in need. The passage suggests that God desires for his people to share material wealth with more equity. I feel wonderfully comfortable having a full stomach, a roof over my head, and money to supply my needs, but knowing others suffer as I enjoy plenty disturbs that peace; likewise, it should disturb us as human beings.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.