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Monday, June 15, 2020

A Time of Anger

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We need to let go of excuses

Nearly everyone is angry. Angry about the police. Angry with Donald Trump. Angry about the elected officials who shuttered our economy. Angry with the rioters burning our cities. Angry about the rich. About racism and prejudice. About injustice. Angry with the senseless killings and gang violence in countless cities across the country. Angry about America and its history – it goes on and on.

Anger is a strange and complicated emotion. At times, anger is explosive – causing us to say or do hurtful things to one another. Other times, it’s righteous, such as when it’s a reaction to an offense against God or His Word, for example. The difference here is that explosive anger doesn’t care about the person the anger is directed upon. It attacks the sinner instead of the sin; the person, instead of the act. It seeks retribution and retaliation, not redemption.

And while Jesus did flip tables, he also spent a great deal of time turning the other cheek, which is something nearly no one in our culture appears willing to do. From social media posts to celebrities to elected officials, everyone has to “one-up” the other’s angst.

But anger is never a justification for being unkind. As the Book of James (1:12) reminds us, “Anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

And with this anger, more and more, come the demands, presumably that, if met, will make them happy and bring about improvement to the status quo. Rioters call for defunding the police, for example, and putting that money into low-income communities. Others are demanding an end to juvenile detention and reallocating those funds to education. Some are demanding that qualified immunity for law enforcement officers be abolished, or that the federal government should provide free health care and abolish tuition and fees and four-year colleges and universities.

So, what would it be for you? What will make you happy? When you get that raise? When you finally finish the project you are working on? Maybe it’s when you get that promotion or retire? Or when you finally get moved into the new house? Maybe it will be when you lose the weight, or stop smoking, or stop drinking, or get married. Or maybe you’re waiting for the economy to improve, or for your candidate to be elected into office?

The trap here is that the goal post of happiness is always moving. Even for you rioters, once we get what we wanted in the first place, most of us tend to reset the “If I had this thing, I’d be happy” thinking – and then your happiness is again just some distant point, off in the future.

This is important to figure out because there’s a lot of anger in our country today. Maybe you’re angry at white people because of slavery. Or at rich people because they just get richer and need to share more of their wealth. Or maybe it’s the bad teachers, who aren’t providing our children with a quality education? Maybe you’re angry with those who don’t get it and continue to fly the Confederate battle flag, or you’re angry with those who disagree with the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples can marry nationwide. Perhaps you hate America so much that you burn our flag.

And just as it is with happiness, the same is true of anger – even when the source of that anger diminishes, most folks will still be unhappy and looking for someone or something new to blame. Maybe next you will blame your wife or your pastor, your kids or your co-worker. Maybe it will be the next president or a past president. After all, when things go wrong in life, it’s natural for us to blame, because then we don’t have to accept responsibility for what we did, or didn’t do.

We come by this quite naturally, though. Remember in the Garden of Eden?

God: “Adam, did you eat the fruit?”

Adam: “Eve gave it to me.”

God: “OK. Eve, did you eat the fruit?”

The problem is that none of us can improve any situation unless we accept responsibility for ourselves, and otherwise reject the philosophy that someone else, or something else, is to blame for our circumstances in life – whether it happened last week, or from when you were a child, or even 150 years ago.

Here’s the bottom line, though: Happiness is an inside job. Only you can make youself happy, and furthermore, it’s no one’s job to make you happy. Not other people. Not the federal government, or the Supreme Court. Not your kids. Not the rich. Not your spouse. Your life is intended to be lived fully … because there is greatness already within you.

The sooner we let go of our excuses and more of us take responsibility for our own pursuit of happiness, the sooner we will have the power to change our lives and our nation for the better. It’s much easier to come up with excuses of why we are where we are in our lives. It’s easy to complain about our situation or our circumstances, or to give up on our dreams, and become angry or depressed, or live in the past. Anyone can do that.

But, if it is true, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be,” then the question today is, “What will it be for you?” How happy will you make your mind up to be?

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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