It was midday Saturday on one of California’s freeways when one driver cut off another; dangerous driving ensued, followed by a confrontation and an attack. In a matter of moments a nasty road rage incident occurred, according to Highway Patrol officials, ending in felony charges being filed.
On the other coast, in a seminar room in New York City, a workshop aimed at reining in workplace anger is under way. The speaker tells attendees that people get angry an average of 10 to 14 times a day. Most work-related anger doesn’t turn violent, he says, but it does damage relations and reputations, and it hurts morale.
I’m reading about these events in what feels like a welcome refuge from them, the peacefulness of my home. It gives me a chance to think about the things that can influence behavior in the workplace and on the road, anywhere really. A disturbing comment, a careless maneuver, an emotional outburst, perceived unfairness – there are lots of anger-triggers.
But what should be our response to them?
The idea of a refuge reminds me of the 91st Psalm, and “the secret place of the most High,” which is “my refuge and my fortress.” That mental fortress is certainly a calming image, but does that suggest that the best we can do is find a safe place for ourselves in an otherwise fuming world? Or did the Psalmist have a different message in mind?
My read is that the secret place is not some faraway abode, but rather a state of consciousness. No matter what’s going on around us, we would do well to be influenced by a higher state of thought – by the most High, the divine Mind, or God – rather than take it for granted we’re at the mercy of runaway emotions and circumstances.
Who wouldn’t prefer to have a sense of dominion over the lowest thoughts and feelings someone can have toward another? Unselfishness, patience, forgiveness, compassion, and calm are uplifting and far more beneficial than lower qualities such as anger, revenge, or self-righteousness. This is about a higher sense of refuge, one where you aren’t swept away by harmful thoughts.
Better still is to ponder something essential about those with whom we share the workplace or the road. They’re not pawns of destructive thoughts, either. Instead of bracing ourselves for some emotion-packed comment or behavior, we can have a higher idea of others, rooted in the Old Testament of the Bible. We can become aware of their enormous potential for good because of their actual, spiritual nature as the image and likeness of God. The author of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, reiterates this point: “Man is the offspring, not of the lowest, but of the highest qualities of Mind” (p. 265).
Sticking with that higher idea of others is one way to have a positive impact on any atmosphere where we come into contact with them. Yes, it takes a good heart to want to improve conditions for society. And yes, making progress will require practice and persistence, as do most high goals.
Still, when thinking of others, remember that just because people aren’t currently thinking they’re divinely supported and loved, doesn’t mean that they aren’t. The potential for change and improvement is always there. The divine influence is present and active in human consciousness and has the effect of opening thought to the highest qualities of Mind, and the fact that we’re inseparable from them and that they constitute everyone’s true nature.
Here’s what I think the Psalmist wanted us to realize: That secret place of the most High isn’t being kept a secret. The highest qualities of Mind are ever expressive, welcoming us into a friendlier, more respectful, more loving state of consciousness, right now. Where it appears there is anger or disrespect, the spirit of Love, of God Himself, is there and can change how we feel and how we respond. Our sincere desire – our prayer – to abide in that higher consciousness can make a big difference for the better.
Further on in Psalm 91, the writer says, “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (verses 9, 10). Wouldn’t that apply to the plague of anger?
That’s doing more than managing it. It is helping to eliminate it.