There is a lot of anger in our nation right now. Maybe you’re feeling angry and anxious. How can we get control over our anger? In mid-July I attended a conference for ministers at my alma mater, Great Lakes Christian College. As I headed to Lansing one afternoon to attend the afternoon session of that conference, I heard a story on the radio about an altercation that took place at a Dimondale Quality Dairy store. A 77 year old man started scolding a 43 year old man for not wearing a mask. The store clerk wouldn’t serve him, which made the younger man even angrier, and the guy ended up stabbing the 77 year old man four times because he felt judged and insulted by the older man. He then drove to Grand Ledge where a female officer stopped him. He charged at her with two knives and a screw driver. She yelled at him to stop, and when he didn’t, she shot him. He died at the hospital in Lansing.
In a recent Facebook post by a friend of mine, Shannon Caroland, he shares about a friend of his in Lansing who was carrying two heavy bags of chicken feed, one on each shoulder, when the mask he was wearing began to slip past his nose. Someone 50 feet away started yelling and cussing at him. They followed him into the parking lot and started taking pictures of his car where his wife and toddler were waiting for him.
Whether you’re talking about face masks or riots or politics, people seem beset with anger, and it’s causing a lot of unnecessary harm and danger. I want to encourage us to think about how we talk and interact with each other, because our remarks are often like a ripple effect on a pond. I remember being at the gravel pit one summer day that was on the farm where I grew up. It was a calm day, and I was the only one out there standing on the water’s edge looking over God’s peaceful and tranquil nature. It was beautiful…and so still. Then I threw a small stone into the water, and I was so impressed by the ripple effect that resulted from that one stone entering the water. It wasn’t a big stone. It was little, and yet the water rippled from one edge of the gravel pit to the other like a target that got bigger and bigger.
Our conversations have the same effect. They cause ripples in the world that impact people for either good or bad. It might feel good to make a snarky remark, but like a ripple in the water after a stone is thrown, it leaves an effect. Your words impact people, leading to something that’s beautiful and helpful or leading to something that’s hurtful and maybe even tragic.
James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James sure does give us some wisdom there. Anger can produce a lot of craziness, but not a whole lot of helpfulness if we’re not careful.
As my friend Shannon puts it, maybe we shouldn't stir up the narrative that anti-maskers are just stupid and selfish and need to be put in their place. Maybe we shouldn't stir up the narrative that people who believe in masks are Socialist sheep who want to strip you of freedoms and your rights. Maybe we should remember that everyone is going through their own struggles.
Be kind. Be compassionate. Don't be the cause of the ripple that ends up in tragedy. Let’s get control of our anger by being part of the solution, not part of the problem.