What Is Provoking the Age of Rage?
A MAN is shot dead while sitting at a bar in Prague, in the Czech Republic. Why? The gunman was annoyed by the loud music the victim was playing on his personal cassette player. A motorist is clubbed to death with a hockey stick at an intersection in Cape Town, South Africa. His attacker was apparently upset because the victim had flashed his lights at him. A British nurse living in Australia has her front door kicked in by an enraged former boyfriend; he soaks her with petrol, sets her on fire, and leaves her to die.
Are reports of rage—road rage, domestic rage, air rage—being blown out of proportion? Or like cracks in the walls of a building, are they just the visible warnings of a serious underlying problem? The facts indicate that the latter is true.
On the road, “reports of violent traffic incidents have increased nearly 7 percent per year since 1990,” states a recent report from the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety.
In the home, rage is rampant. For example, police in the Australian state of New South Wales witnessed a 50-percent increase in reported cases of domestic violence during the year 1998. Every fourth woman in that country who is married or lives in a de facto relationship has suffered violence by her partner.
In the air the story is similar. The threat of airline passengers’ suddenly snapping and attacking staff, fellow passengers, and even pilots has prompted some of the world’s major airlines to provide their cabin crews with special harnesses designed to bind violent offenders in their seats.
Why do growing numbers of people seem incapable of restraining their emotions? What prompts these acts of rage? Is it actually possible to control these feelings?
Why the Rise in Rage?
To have rage is to feel or exhibit intense anger. Acts of rage result when anger is allowed to build until it erupts in a violent outburst of emotion. “Violent traffic disputes are rarely the result of a single incident. Rather, they seem to be the result of personal attitudes and the accumulation of stress in the motorist’s life,” notes David K. Willis, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Contributing to this accumulation of stress is the flood of information we are expected to absorb each day. The back cover of the book Information Overload, by David Lewis, observes: “Many workers today are sinking under a deluge of data . . . Overwhelmed by information, . . . they become stressed out, reckless, paralysed by analysis.” Citing an example of this deluge of data, one newspaper noted: “A weekday edition of a newspaper contains as much information as the average person in the 17th century would be exposed to in their entire lifetime.”
What we put in our mouths may also be nourishing anger. Two large-scale studies have shown that increased hostility is linked to cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and an unhealthful diet. These epidemic life-style habits fuel stress and frustration—frustration that erupts in the form of swearing, impatience, and intolerance.
Bad Manners and Movies
Commenting on the relationship between incivility and crime, Dr. Adam Graycar, director of the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), observes: “A renewed focus on respect and civility may be one of the most significant steps towards reducing petty crime.” The institute advocates exercising patience, showing tolerance, and refraining from swearing. Failure to do so, it claims, can turn disorderly behavior into criminal behavior. Ironically, a form of relaxation chosen by many to relieve frustration and stress actually encourages intolerance and rage. How?
“Children and adults flock to cinemas to watch depictions of death and destruction. The market for violent videos is vast and lucrative. ‘War toys’ remain popular with many children, if not always with their parents. Televised violence is greatly enjoyed by many, both adults and children, and television has an important role in the transmission of cultural values,” states an AIC report. How does this relate to outbursts of rage on the street and in the home? The report concludes: “To the extent that a society condones violence, the values of individuals within that society will develop accordingly.”
Many individuals today would argue that venting anger is just a natural response to stress, an unavoidable reaction to our high-pressure, aggressive society. Is it true, then, that the popular notion, “When angry, let it out,” is actually good advice?
Should Rage Be Controlled?
Just as an erupting volcano wreaks havoc on those living around it, so too a person who expresses intense anger harms those living around him. He also critically damages himself. In what way? “Acting on anger leads to even more aggression,” states The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to research, men who manifest anger “are more likely to be dead by age 50 than those who do not.”
The American Heart Association similarly states: “Men who experience outbursts of anger have twice the risk of stroke as men who control their tempers.” These warnings are relevant to both sexes.
What advice really works? Notice the similarities between the advice of secular authorities and that of the most widely distributed authority on human relations, the Bible.
Manage Anger—Avoid Rage
Dr. Redford B. Williams states in JAMA: “The simplistic advice, ‘when angry, let it out,’ is unlikely . . . to be of much help. Far more important is to learn how to evaluate your anger and then to manage it.” He suggests asking yourself: “(1) Is this situation important to me? (2) Are my thoughts and feelings appropriate to the objective facts? (3) Is this situation modifiable, so that I don’t have to have this anger?”
Proverbs 14:29; 29:11 “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness. All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.”
Ephesians 4:26 “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.”
Frank Donovan, in his book Dealing With Anger—Self-Help Solutions for Men, recommends: “Escaping anger—or, more specifically, escaping the scene and other people in your angry episode—is a strategy which has special importance and value at the higher levels of anger.”
Proverbs 17:14 “The beginning of contention is as one letting out waters; so before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.”
Bertram Rothschild, writing in the journal The Humanist, states: “Anger . . . is primarily one’s personal responsibility. The reasons to become angry exist in our heads. . . . The few times anger worked for you pale in comparison to the multitude of times it made things worse. It is far better not to produce the anger than to experience it.”
Psalm 37:8 “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil.”
Proverbs 15:1 “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.”
Proverbs 29:22 “A man given to anger stirs up contention, and anyone disposed to rage has many a transgression.”
Millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide endorse the above counsel. We invite you to attend their meetings at your local Kingdom Hall and see for yourself that living by the Bible’s advice actually works, despite our living in an age of rage.
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Just like an erupting volcano, a person with uncontrolled rage causes damage
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The Bible’s advice really works