I Am Not Angry

I sat through three cycles of a traffic light this morning, waiting for a left turn signal that never came.  I was the only one in the turn lane through two rounds of lights, then a guy pulled in behind me and we sat through the third round together.  It was time to run the light.  

I rehearsed my speech to the officer, in case I got pulled over, then checked my rear view mirror for police one last time.  Behind me, inside his sound proof box on wheels, my fellow left-turner was screaming and cursing at the top of his lungs.   Was he mad at me?  Did he think I forgot to go?  Nope, he was glaring hatefully upward at the signal.  His face was deep purple and shaking, his neck veins were bulging and spit was peppering the inside of his windshield.

I have pondered for years, something Mother Teresa said, wondering if it is really true or just something that sounds wise.  She said, “All anger comes from pride.” Hmm.  Really?  I’ve always believed that there are many more sources of anger than just one.  The anger that a middle-aged man has when he doesn’t get his way seems to come from a very different source than the anger that results from seeing a child abused.  One being selfish anger, the other being righteous anger at injustice.

If this observation, “all anger comes from pride,” originated from some monastic experience where the monk had detached himself from any connection with the real world, I would not have given it a second thought.  What do they know anyway? But this statement came from a woman who spent her life washing lepers so they could die in clean sheets. I can think of very few people who would have more cause for righteous anger after experiencing the cruelties of humankind firsthand.  Yet, she labeled all anger as pride.  I have never found any elaboration on her statement, so I can only say where it takes me.

The word anger and the word deserve seem to be inseparably linked.  Anger emerges when we believe that things aren’t fair, when we believe that we deserve better, or when others deserve better, or even when others take or get something they don’t deserve.  “I pay taxes, dammit, and I deserve a functioning traffic light.” or “They don’t deserve to cut in front of me.” or “I don’t deserve to be talked to that way.” or “What did that poor man do to deserve that fate?” or “That child doesn’t deserve to be beaten.”

If I dare put myself in Mother Teresa’s sandals, I can guess that she believed that life itself is a gift from God, and everything we have is a gift from God, and every breath we take is a gift from God.  If it’s all a gift? We deserve none of it.  There is nothing to be proud of, there is nothing we have earned, there is nothing we deserve, it is all a gift from God.  God alone holds the right to be angry.

So, all anger comes from pride? I’m still pondering, but I think I understand where she got it. I ran the light and did not get a ticket. Had I?  I would have been angry.