In 1985 when I first encountered the idea of writing my book, Asking What: No More Whys (www.westbowpress.com), I thought I understood the need to write. If I had written my story, it would have been simply focused on labels and violence, because there was a story there, just not the Christian maturity required to understand what the message needed to be in context. Then following my journey through cancer, once again I thought I understood the purpose of writing my story, a second journey that led to another personal victory, I had moved from the milk of God’s Word, to a puree of meat. My journey had to be more, a clearer or deeper understanding, and I just did not know the lessons from each of those life experiences. Once I changed my question from “why” to “what” along with the journal of my emotions and feelings, I was able to digest more of God’s message to me. The reason I am sharing this is because of responses I have had from those who have read about the seven chapters of my life, and what message they received. My repeated statements of “Did I tell you I was angry?” appears to be the message that is resonating with my readers. To know that none of us are alone in our anger and the management of our approach to anger has been astounding. Over and over it has been women who have shared with me their acknowledgement and ownership of anger and what to do next. We really know we are angry, we just need to unearth the deep roots of it and find ways to understand and manage our response. It is not easy, I wish I could wave some all-knowing wand and provide answers to those who have called or asked me what next, what do we do once we acknowledge the feelings of anger. What I do know is that I choked down, stuffed or internalized my anger which left me in an emotional prison. When we internalize emotions, it can harm us, in very noticeable ways, but also in silent ways. For me it was the furniture I moved the release the anger. I was aware that my anger hurt me physically and thought that was acceptable, but it was not and is not acceptable. Of course the mental tapes were in control, rolling all the time and I did not realize what was happening. First it was the migraines, then it became cancer, but I needed to know and believe that I was good, in whatever “state” I found myself in at any given moment in time. Not that anger led me to cancer, but once cancer changed my physical image, I had to learn to be more honest about who I had become, about being loved because I was me, and then turn off the tapes, the built-in expectations of not only my behavior but of my expectations of others. It comes in baby steps, just as Christianity grows or matures, so does our self-imposed expectations of ourselves and the expectations we project on to others. It is like the unmade bed that controls our thoughts of the day, or the unwashed dishes … whatever it is! Others have conditioned us to not feel or react in our anger, but we still need to find healthy ways to manage or work through what we feel, what we think and what we expect of ourselves. Well-intentions of others can lead us to frustration and more stuffed anger, because we question what we know. No person has the right to tell us to not feel or experience what we are feeling. Words are difficult to come by, communication is so difficult, we just can’t find the right words, nor can those who mean well, or who may have our best interests at heart. Women who have shared with me have faced some very tough battles, and are still struggling today with anger that has been their life long companion. Although it sounds so simple, even too simple according to our mental tapes, start your journey of self-discovery with keeping a journal every day. Ask yourself “what am I feeling?”, “what am I expecting of myself or of others that has led to emotional disappointment?”, phrase it anyway that works for you, these are just samples of what I ask myself. Although my writing was written to help with one’s approach to cancer, it is the thread of anger that is resonating with readers. God will use or best efforts to accomplish what He wants, not what we plan with our efforts. I have to stop limiting God, He is much greater than my ability to comprehend the breadth and depth of His work, His purpose, and His intentions for the world He created and has dominion over.
This week has led me to some new insights, because people have called me and their questions have led me to explore how I deal with anger, what the mental process is for me, so that I have clarity to respond to others. It was a complete stranger who revealed to me through simple conversation that we struggle with communication and understanding. We were just sharing while our vehicles were being serviced, and found ourselves discussing the complacency of today’s Christians that have led us to the “mess” our society has found itself in. There is violence on so many levels, discord and confusion in our homes, communities, nation and the world. “Mrs. Dorothea” and I may never meet again, but we found ourselves in agreement about one thing. It is that we need to grow up, mature as Christians and help each other grow in the process. Anger is so much of a part of what is happening in our world today; intense and destructive anger about events often fueled by greed, power, pride and/or self-serving expectations that have led us to be in so much societal turmoil. We agreed that what is lacking is maturity as Christians, how we make things “acceptable” by wording it so that our consciences leave us alone, remain quiet or hushed and subdued. Making things, events and situations acceptable does not make them right. Making our anger “manageable” is not making us whole – but as each of us examine ourselves, accept and acknowledge who we are and act according to God’s Will, we will find that our frustrations, our expectations and our emotional well-being will mature and inspire us to “fix” our roles in our homes, communities, nation and world. It starts with one, and as Dorothea and I hugged as we parted, I knew God had set her in my path, even if only briefly, to teach me yet another truth.