NATIONWIDE MIGHT NOT BE ON MY SIDE

"Anger issues?"
“Anger issues?”

Or, maybe I’m not on Nationwide’s side.

There is a commercial running on television of late that bothers me.  Mrs. Greenbean tells me that I over analyze these things too much, but hey, its what I do, right?

It is a Nationwide insurance commercial–no, not the depressing one about the boy who never lived because he died–but a different one that I find even more disturbing.

The ad features children in frustrating situations where the customer service is poor.  It starts off with a little girl at what looks like the DMV, there is also a couple in a restaurant being ignored by their server, and it finishes with a little girl having her car examined by an insurance adjuster and he says, “we’ll take care of it” and then suddenly the little girl is a grown woman who says, “Thank you.”

The point of the commercial is that whenever we have poor customer service, we often want to throw tantrums like children do when things don’t go their way.  I get that.  The problem I have with the commercial is the only scene where a boy is venting his frustration has him violently slamming his phone onto the ground.  I have provided the commercial below, in case you missed it (ICYMI).

This depiction of male frustration bothers me in four ways.

1.  It seems to reinforce the stereotype that the masculine way to “vent” or to “be angry” is to destroy something.

2.  Why are the little girls allowed to be civil in their frustration while the boy literally ends the conversation?

3.  The commercial ends by showing us that these are really adults in these situations, so, that means it was  a grown man who threw his phone against the ground.  What else does he throw when he is angry?  Punches?  Plates?  People?

4.  Throwing phones is a sign of anger issues and may be an indicator of a possible tendency for domestic violence.

Again, I might be guilty of thinking about it too much, but these kinds of stereotypes are not healthy, and they reinforce a worldview that teaches us women are civil and polite while men are just jerks who can’t control themselves.

image of little boy from uproxx.com, who, loved the commercial and thought the angry little boy was the best part.

FORGIVENESS

Today is a guest post by my buddy David Richardson.  David and I met when we were doing doctoral work together, and have kept up our friendship through the miracle of the interwebs.  I asked him to write us a blog post, and he wrote a very good one.  You should check out David’s blog at http://www.daviderichardson.blogspot.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter@davidrich70.


For a moment, I was an angry Dad.

Early on a Saturday morning, I was watching my six year old son play goalie in a YMCA soccer game.  Emerson was really doing well in defending his goal.  Finally, a kid from the other team managed to get a great kick past my son and score on him.  That did not bother me.  I knew that was eventually going to happen.  But what got to me was what happened next:  the kid who scored the goal stood there, pointed at my Emerson, and had a few “choice words” for him.  I could hear the trash talk on the sidelines where I was standing.  My son just stood there and said nothing back to the bully from the other team.

That’s what made me angry.

I did not like seeing my boy called out like that.  So I walked over behind the goal and stood there a few feet from my son as the game continued.  I kept saying “You’re doing good, boy!  I’m proud of you.  Keep it up.  Daddy’s right here with you.”  He couldn’t say anything back because the game was going on.  But he was nodding to let me know he heard me.

Finally, it was halftime.  I walked out onto the field and hugged my son. Then I asked him how he felt about what happened.  Emerson looked at me, smiled, and said, “It’s ok, Dad.  I already forgave that boy.”

I was not angry anymore.  Not at all.  Instead, I was inspired by that sacred moment on the YMCA soccer field in central Florida.

Forgiveness.  What a beautiful thing.  It’s not always easy.  But it is always right.

I’ve come to realize that when we forgive, we do two things:  (1) Refuse revenge.  (2) Bypass bitterness.  It does not mean what the other person did to us is “ok”.  But it does mean we choose not to pay them back or stew inside with bitterness.

I’ve forgiven folks before.  And I’ve needed folks to forgive me along the way too.  Every time it happens, I am reminded that few things are more beautiful and powerful than that.

That’s the Gospel.  God forgives us when we lie on a tax form, cheat on a business trip, gossip on the phone, or bully on the soccer field.  Then we are in turn asked to extend each other the same blessing.

Life’s too short to stay angry and lick our wounds as the victim.  There comes a point where we have to let it go and forgive.  And when we do, we heal enough to move on with the life God has laid out for us.

Emerson reminded me of an awesome truth that day.  Forgiveness is the way to go.  Always.

May God help us all forgive each other in the same way He has forgiven us.

ANGER MIS-MANAGEMENT

This morning I was reading from Pastoral Care by St. Gregory the Great.  Gregory is one of my favorites because he writes for pastors in a voice and with a genuine concern that speaks across the centuries from his office in Middle Ages Rome to my office in third millennia West Coast America.  His words spoke to me particularly about something I’ve been observing for a while.  In this particular section he is advising on how to deal with those who are too “meek” and too “choleric.”  Choleric is not a word we use often, but in this context it just means volatile or angry.  Gregory writes,

“When rage drives them headlong, they do not realise (sic) what they are doing in their anger, they do not realise what suffering their anger creates for themselves.  But sometimes—and this a more serious matter—they think that the goad of anger is zeal for righteousness; and when vice is thought to be virtue, guilt accumulates without apprehension.”

As I unpack that for us we find that Gregory indicates angry people often do not realize the problem(s) their anger creates for themselves and others.  Part of an angry person’s problem is that he or she confuses anger for zeal—godly zeal.  This zeal is thought to be righteous.  These people assume that they are justified in their anger and this snowballs the problems all the more.  Gregory might say it like this today, “There is nothing worse than an angry person who thinks God is as angry as they are.”

The reason this spoke to me so much is that we live in an angry age. 

People are angry all the time; and those who are not angry are looking for someone to be angry at or something to be angry about.  This anger can be found in the current political landscape, in our religious dialogues, and in our family lives.  It strikes me, and I could be wrong, but people strive to live in conflict more than they strive to live in peace (c/f Heb 12:14). 

Many people no longer want peace, they want to be right!  Hence, that leads us back to Gregory’s concept of righteous zeal.  The Anger-O-Meter is so high that it is hard not to get swept up in the hostilities.   

However, as a follower of Christ I am called to be dedicated to the truth and right living.  I am not, however, called to be angry about others who do not.  The actions of others may grieve me, make me want to flee, or strategize a way to evangelize but never to be angry.  With very few exceptions, it is not “OK” for a believer in Jesus to be angry.  The Bible says “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).  Most of the yelling, screaming, accusing, and spitting we do when we are angry is definitely a sin.  We are guilty of taking of behavioral cues from the world instead of behaving in a redeemed fashion. 

The next time you feel a good righteous anger coming on; may I suggest that you stifle it by taking a moment to pray it through.  Ask God to show you “Why?” you are angry.  Then, perhaps, read the Sermon on the Mount.  That always has a way of changing my perspective on things.  Finally; refuse to comment.  Things usually only go downhill after we open our mouths.  Faith in the Lord often means allowing him to handle the rebuttal.

Relax.

Breathe deeply.

Trust the Lord.

Hold your tongue.

Let it go.

Be a person of peace in a world of anger.