Step Back and Breathe

woman drinking a cup of anger

We seem to feed on anger

I wonder how many times, in my life, I’ve stood in the midst of angry, taunting teens. I wonder how many times the anger has been directed at me.

I’ve been called names. I’ve been threatened. I’ve felt like crying. (Okay, sometimes I have cried.) I’ve helped separate kids in the middle of fist fights and tended the wounds they sustained in battle – both the physical wounds and the emotional, which tend to gouge a bit deeper. I’ve stepped in between two kids when one pulled a knife. (Upon further reflection, that may not have been my smartest move. Especially considering both of them were bigger than me.) I’ve stared kids down. I’ve called them on their bluster. But, most importantly, we’ve all just calmed down. Together. We’ve all just calmed down.

That’s what we do in life. We get riled up, we take a step back, and we all just calm down. And that’s one of the important lessons that we, as adults, teach our adolescents. We teach them the necessary skills that they will carry with them throughout their lives. One of which is how to calm those awful, hateful, angry feelings. How to take that step back. And sometimes take another step back. And another. And to breathe. Until they no longer see red. Until they can breathe at a normal rate and think rationally, once again.

But something is going horribly wrong. We, as adults, are forgetting to take a step back. We are forgetting to rethink and review. We are forgetting to breathe and count to ten. We see red and we react. There is no thoughtful analysis. There is no dialogue or compromise. There is just anger. We see it everywhere we look, whether we’re rushing to war or neighborhood pool parties.

It’s time for us to take a step back. To breathe. To reflect. To give some thoughtful analysis as to who and what we want to be. As individuals and as a nation. Will we continue to be these reactionary, hostile beings who must constantly explain away our mistakes and the damage we’ve done? Or will we then step forward, making life-giving changes in this world?

It is time. Time to choose what we will be and what we will teach our children.

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