Matt trains United States Marines in combat techniques: small arms fire, knife fighting, explosives, and the proper use of the M240 machine gun—a weapon that fires large and deadly cartridges at a rate of about 15 rounds per SECOND. He is—in short—a “man’s man,” who on the battlefield is a fearsome fighting machine.
At home, however, he is entirely outmatched by the weapon—anger—used with great skill and frequency by his wife, Maureen. Within seconds of any conflict, she can force a complete surrender—or, just as terribly—utter cooperation from this big, powerful man.
One day as the three of us were talking, Maureen said she was doing much better with her anger. “I don’t get as angry or as often as I used to.”
Matt rolled his eyes, so I asked him if what she’d said was true. “Well,” he said, “I suppose she is angry a little less often, but . . .”
“But,” I continued for him, “you’re still afraid of her getting angry, and it’s not much less hurtful to you."
He nodded his head.
Maureen appeared to be offended at this lack of appreciation for her efforts, so I said, “Maureen, imagine that Matt said that lately he’d been slapping you in the face and punching you in the stomach less than usual. Would you be thrilled at his progress?”
“No, probably not.”
“No, you would not be thrilled. There are some activities for which we need to have a ZERO tolerance, which means that any occurrence is simply unacceptable.”
Anger’s underlying message of “I don’t love you” is so harmful that we cannot allow it. It’s a big gun. In our defense, we are human, and anger will sometimes happen, but then we need to admit our error—sometimes to the person we’re angry at—and talk to people who are capable of loving us in ways that will eliminate the pain that always precedes anger.
When I was a child, my mother had a rule of “no balls in the house,” because she knew what happened when boys played with footballs and basketballs around objects like lamps and windows and mirrors. For similar reasons, “No anger” needs to be a firm rule for us all.