Anger gets a bad rap – it’s a good tool

This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She homeschools five kids in Washington state.

I have yet to meet a mom who does not wish she didn’t yell.  I have yet to meet a homeschooling mom who has not had blowouts with their children. But people always end their yelling stories with their heads hung in shame. They stop the story before the best part: the part where the anger spurs them on to change:

Change curriculum.

Change schools.

Change Jobs.

Anger tells us when someone or something is doing something hurtful. Sometimes our anger should warn us that we are about to be hurtful. And sometimes anger gives us the energy needed to fight back and change something, even our point of view.

I get angry at myself, especially for losing my temper, or for letting someone walk on me.  I don’t want to be a person who uses anger to yell or intimidate people. But I don’t want change in my life to spring from a flipped switch. I want to see anger as a friend, who is telling me it’s time to change. I am in charge of me; my anger is not in command.

When my mother pushed my son, my anger jumped in and I made a change. I set boundaries I had never established before. Following that thread took me to counseling and taking a look around inside of me. My anger changed my life. Noticing the anger changed my life, not hiding it, avoiding it, denying it.

Anger saves us. I needed it to push me to change, to be the voice of reason that says “enough is enough” when someone needs to. The price is too high when I ignore it. I am embarrassed when it erupts because I have been pretending it is not there. Anger drove me to homeschool when I didn’t want to. It makes me look at what needs to change when I want to stay the same.

I am learning how to view my anger as a good friend, rather than an enemy. I listen to a good friend, and sometimes I follow their advice and sometimes I go my own way. I am in charge, but anger is a good friend. Like with my decision to not do traditional high school. Instead I asked my kids to pursue 3 or 4 things through the day. I am making this choice because the thought of traditional high school provokes a “That’s fucked up” in my head and I am choosing to listen.

Anger will be the driving force for all of us to change the education system. As I look back on my life, I can see how if only I had listened to my angry voice inside saying, “That’s fucked up,” life would have been better, faster.

8 replies
  1. Casey
    Casey says:

    Are both your kids in high school already? I totally agree about the blow ups. Not easy being around anyone all day let alone kids. It all becomes normal part of family life. Drama!

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Our emotions are like the lights on our car dashboard. They are meant to tell us something about our internal condition. When we can respond rationally when those emotions happen, we really have incredible power to get what we want and protect our interests.

  3. Rachel J.
    Rachel J. says:

    I currently adhere to a philosophy of, “Anger is a signal that there is a problem, it is usually not a good tool to fix the problem.”

    combined with this:

    “’At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words ‘fuck off’ much more frequently.”
    – Helen Mirren

  4. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Thanks for the post! What can we do if we do not feel anger?

    I rarely get angry if I feel it at all. What I usually feel is either happiness or sadness, so I use sadness as a guide instead. If I think that a situation will cause someone else to feel anger, I will speak up or advocate on behalf of the person. But I can only empathize with their sadness, fear, or happiness, but I cannot feel their anger.

  5. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    One of the biggest challenges of my life has been understanding the difference between what is aggressive (damaging) and what is assertive (preserving). Over the past year I really started to tackle understanding how to stand up for myself in order to live the life I want to live, and enjoy the best relationships I can. I’ve made some mistakes, being too brusque or harsh at times, but to my neverending relief and surprise people are usually much more forgiving than I expect. Now I’m able to appreciate those who push my boundaries, because that’s when I learn and put into practice how I will react. Sarah, thank you so much for writing this. I know that in a future tough moment your line “Anger saves us” will come to me, and it will help.

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