When Anger Touches Others

Sarah Ann Noel

I don’t like to call myself an angry person. I am passionate. And as such, I have, on more than one occasion, been the type of person who screams at the top of her lungs, “Stop yelling!”

Motherhood has intensified this for me. My brain is buzzing around needs and complaints and to-do lists while my body tries to resist collapsing; and when it comes to a head, there is an actual snap. Some moms break down crying. Some get that Stepford Wife look in their eye and start responding to everything in high-pitched monotone. Me? I get angry. Overstimulated is probably a more accurate word, but it manifests itself as angry.

I don’t get angry at the catalyst. I get angry at everything around me: The socks that don’t match. The toy that can’t be found. The toast that burns because I was distracted looking for the toy that can’t be found. On bad days, my anger falls upon people as well. I’m short with a friend. I’m selfish with my husband. And because they’re most likely with me at the point of my breaking, I thrust my anger toward my children.

It’s a blessing and curse to realize that this is in us because we are human. It’s freeing and it’s a reminder that we are in need of constant work.

I have found that productivity can temper my temper. When the socks don’t match, if I set myself to looking for the pair that does instead of yelling at the socks, I feel better. When there is toast in the toaster and the toy is missing, I find if I immediately prioritize action, my responses are calmer. And if I can practice this with the irritating minutia of life, I am far more gracious with those I love.

Other things make me angry, maybe things that matter more. True hunger, for instance, makes me angry. Children with no shoes on their feet riles me up. Cruelty from one people group toward another makes me expressly irate. These are my righteous indignations, and what a relief to acknowledge that the things that make me human can be redeemed and called good. Anger, in and of itself, is perhaps not the wrongdoing; rather my uncontrolled responses are wrong. My lack of self-control is wrong.

But if I can take my righteous anger, if I can apply to it the practice of productivity – just like I do with the mismatched socks – then maybe I can make a difference. I cannot be a mother, a wife, a friend, a human, without sometimes getting angry. But I can choose to keep my focus outside of myself and consider my reactions rather than my emotions.

When society tells us our feelings are cues to look inward, I wonder how different a place our world would be if we chose to look out anyway. Anger isn’t a call to retreat further into ourselves but an invitation to open our eyes, to pay attention and to apply the surge of ferocious energy to something that will touch someone else.

SarahAnnNoel_CroppedSarah Ann Noel married into a family where she became the fourth Sarah Noel, so in the interest of originality, Sarah Ann Noel it shall be.

Sarah is a wife, a mother, and a prodigious over-thinker, fueled by superfluous amounts of caffeine. She likes to color coordinate her books and leave her hair messy. She and her family travel a lot, which Sarah documents through photos and video. Sarah is a freelance writer and contributes regularly to several magazines and online platforms.

She is working on her first book. Read more at sarahannnoel.com.