A few weeks ago, I wrote about the destructive force of anger. I find anger to be a rather fascinating emotion to study, yet a damaging one to employ. Although it can bond people together and provide temporary empowerment, I still believe that “anger is one letter short of danger”.
This is something that Boyfriend and I want to impress upon Drake and Josh. Our family rules revolve around respectful conduct and anger can often get in the way of that. To help communicate our values, we developed “The Anger Jar”. The jar holds many small strips of paper, each containing a quote about anger. Among them:
Sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel. ~Author Unknown
He who angers you conquers you. ~Elizabeth Kenny
Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. ~Benjamin Franklin
Normally the jar lives in a cupboard in the kitchen. Typically, we retrieve it when there’s been a violation of one of our rules and “I was angry” is the cited defense (it’s a pretty common excuse). The boy who broke the rule will pull a quote from the jar, read it aloud and discuss what the quote means as well as how it relates to the situation at hand. The practice forces reflection on the incident in the light of wisdom from some of history’s wisest characters.
After the jar is out, we leave it in plain sight. Sometimes we’ll sit around the jar together while the boys pull quotes and read them for fun. Other times, any one of us might reach for the jar when we feel frustration rising. The peace and perspective within can prevent an outburst.
Our family situation isn’t always easy. We endure lot of transitional stress, mixed messages and fuzzy boundaries. Sometimes we annoy each other. Sometimes our buttons get pushed. And sometimes we lose our cool. In the wake of divorce there are many opportunities to indulge our uglier emotions, but in doing so we only hurt ourselves and each other. I’m glad we have The Anger Jar to remind us that there’s a higher road.
Come to think of it, perhaps The Anger Jar should have a different name. After all, it doesn’t cause anger… it communicates wisdom, initiates communication and catalyzes positive change. Hmmm…. Any ideas for what else I could call it?