By Brenda Tadych
It’s one thing to balance a monetary budget, but when times are tough, how do we balance our emotional checkbook?
Alexander Pope’s famous quotation tells us, “to err is human, to forgive, divine.” Granted, in 1711 he was referring to the behavior of other writers and critics, but obviously, he was onto something much bigger. Be forgiving, he says. Easier said than done.
I was on vacation some time ago, walking through a downtown area, when I noticed a sign offering a class entitled “Release Your Anger.” I don’t particularly have any unreleased
anger, but something about it reeled me in.
A young woman in the class shared that her mother had passed recently. This woman was one of three siblings, but she was the only one who took care of her mom during the months of her illness. As if that weren’t enough, she was also dealing with maintaining her sobriety through all of this.
A few days before Mom passed, she dropped a bomb and confessed that the man her daughter had always known as her father was not her biological father.
This festered in the young woman throughout the rest of her bedside vigil, through her mother’s last breath, the funeral, and still now. Although this woman considered the man she always knew as her father to be a wonderful parent, she felt heart-broken, deceived and had been carrying the anger around ever since the confession. I thought, what a price to pay, bearing a burden like that.
The objects of her anger didn’t seem to be affected. This burden was hers and hers alone, and I wondered how she would ever find balance.
I couldn’t help but also wonder about the burden her mother carried. For thirty-plus years, this woman’s mother decided it was best to protect her child from the truth of her paternity, but for how much of her daughter’s life did her mother want to unburden her soul?
How was this young woman to be forgiving when all she was dealing with weighed so heavily on her heart?
The class instructor offered an alternative way to consider forgiving: She suggested that we be for giving instead of forgiving. In the case of the young woman, she could be for giving herself permission to cut the cord of anger, for giving her less-than-helpful siblings release from judgment, and for giving her mother the peace she sought at the end of her life.
Consider the basic economics of anger. Anger is kind of an unsecured loan. We don’t put anything up as collateral, but every bottled up emotion goes directly into our account. The anger we heavily invest in has to have an outlet sooner or later. That dividend often pays off in digestion problems, high blood pressure, even heart disease.
Misplaced anger puts us in the red. When it’s just too hard to deal with the root of our anger, we often take it out on someone else. Work problems are taken home, home problems are taken to work - a bounced check of emotions.
When we reach the point of explosive anger, we’ve declared bankruptcy, so to speak. We’ve depleted our emotional funds and exhausted our account. Explosions create a debt and there is no telling how long it will take to regain our solvency.
I choose to keep my emotional balance on the positive side with a reserve account. I might just need it for a rainy day, for a special occasion, or just for sharing.