Hear Me Roar—But Don’t See Me Cry

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M_Bronwyn

It took a brave friend to call me out, hissing and spitting as I was. I’d been fuming for days, alert for any opportunity to rehearse the multiple reasons for my rage. My friend had heard an earful, and an earful more, as I vented. She listened; and for a while I believed the slippery adage that I was “getting it out of my system.”

She called me later that night, and deflated my huff in one sentence. “You must be hurting very badly to be as angry as you are,” she said, “but you need to get your anger under control because you’re doing damage.” Softer, she asked, “So what’s really going on?”

And of course, she was right. I was spewing anger: a masked response that felt so much more powerful and in-control than the incapacitating disappointment and hurt that lay beneath.

It felt too vulnerable to grieve the disappointment. It was too painful to name the hurt, or accept the heartbreaking fact that I couldn’t fix it. But anger? Anger I could do. Anger I could show without feeling like I was naked in public. Hear me roar, I said.

Hear me roar. But do not under any circumstances see me cry.

I dripped big tears over the pot I was stirring as my friend spoke into the phone, unmasked and naked in my hurt. She was right to call me out in my anger, and so wise to see that the size of my rage was directly proportional to the tenderness of the hurt that lay beneath anger’s shell.

* * *

Of course, there is a place for anger. Jesus got angry: a whip-wielding white-hot anger directed at those who had debased his Father’s house, mercenaries rather than the ministers they ought to have been. The whole of Galatians is something of a sustained holy rant, if I think about it.

But I think very little of my anger meets the criteria of righteousness. My anger—like my jealousy—is often a quick draw response to something I haven’t had to the courage to admit yet. And anger, with all its vituperative venom, is an easy veneer for the deeper and more vulnerable emotions. I’d rather be angry than afraid. I’d rather be angry than wronged. I’d rather be angry than grieve.

And yet it is that exact anger—the emotion I rely on as a force field against life’s hurts—which also keeps me imprisoned. For who will brave coming near to speak hope while I’m raging? And who will advocate for me when I appear to be doing a great job lashing out myself? And who will sit with me in silence and give comfort—who would even know that was what I really needed?—when all they hear is shouting?

* * *

These days, I listen differently when people shout. As a recovering Temper-Tantrum-Thrower, I know only too well that angry people are often hurting people, doing what they can to feel strong when they are most keenly aware of their weakness.

Is there insecurity behind their insult? Is there a terrible fear of abandonment fueling the one who slams the door? Are they wild with anger because they’re terrified you’ll leave and they’re testing your limits? Is what looks like fury really fear’s flip-side? I remember well how, having feared I’d lost my child at the fairground, yelled at him for walking away, my shouting clouding out the desperate relief and gratitude at having found him.

More and more, I’m learning love doesn’t just excuse or walk away from anger. Love looks anger square in the eye and says, “I’m paying attention. I see you. Now let’s talk about what’s really wrong.”

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Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama, raising little people in California and raising eyebrows at bronlea.com. Fueled by grace, caffeine and laughter, she writes about the holy and hilarious in life, faith and family. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea
  • “Now let’s talk about what’s really wrong.” So good, Bronwyn.

    • Thanks, i. and thanks for this prompt. I wouldn’t have “gone there” without it.

  • “Is what looks like fury really fear’s flip-side?” I hope I’ll remember these words the next time I’m listening to a rant — or staging one myself!
    I know the wisdom that’s pouring out of this piece is hard-won – which makes it all the more precious.

    • Thanks, Michele. We may not see clearly quite yet, but it is encouraging to get glimpses of the way forward, isn’t it?

  • Elizabeth Trotter

    This is my story. Every word, my story, every time.

    • I’m with you on the path for us to do better, Elizabeth.

  • HeleneBurns

    ‘… I’m learning love doesn’t just excuse or walk away from anger. Love looks anger square in the eye and says, “I’m paying attention. I see you. Now let’s talk about what’s really wrong.” Profound & so very wise. I can identify with you in the journey of learning to deal with hurt and anger the right way. No more excuses – let’s deal with the real root.

    Thank you Bronwyn xo

    • Thanks Helene. I do want to do better in this.

  • Bev Murrill

    Gosh, what a good friend she is to you.

  • Melissa Draper

    I love this. I have definitely struggled with lashing out in my grief. Because crying brings all the emotions to the surface that I don’t want to feel. And it makes me feel vulnerable. Not that anger is admirable, but it makes me feel strong and distracted.

    • “strong and distracted” – yes, exactly. Wow, isn’t it ridiculously hard work for us to keep forfeiting that momentary feeling of strength in favor of dealing with the tears?

  • Roos Woller

    Such an powerful piece rhinos definitely true for me. When I get angry I know I have to check in and see what is going on in my heart

    • Thanks, Roos. I’m so grateful for friends who help me sift through those first defense mechanisms…

  • Harmony Strong Vuycankiat

    Loved every bit of this! Needed it too! Thanks.

    • <3 Grace to you, Harmony.

  • Katie Bergman

    “…anger, with all its vituperative venom, is an easy veneer for the deeper and more vulnerable emotions.” Amen! What keen insights you bring to this topic. Thanks for writing this!

  • Anger is so much less of a vulnerable emotion. I struggled with out-of-control anger for years, and having God enter into that and heal it has been so transformative. SO thankful you’ve posted on this, Bronwyn.

  • This is so good, Bronwyn. Anger is so very hard to have empathy towards. And when there’s no empathy, we lose connection. The hard work is moving towards anger in yourself and others and most of the time, I’m not there. I self-protect or push away. Thank you Bronwyn.

  • kristen gunning

    I relate so well to this! I just wrote a poem that deals with the theme of anger, disguising itself a a great protector, and companion through the grieving process.

  • Pingback: the weapon of gratitude. – courage for a better story.()

  • Keri Underwood

    Wow…this was so so so good. What insight! This is all too true in my life as well. Instead of saying how hurt I am I lash out at those trying to comfort me. I push them away in fear of actually dealing with the emotions of my hurt. It reminds me so much of when I push Christ away in fear of dealing with my sin. Instead of staring our sin in the face and dealing with it don’t we sometimes just look away in shame and in consequence push Christ away? Thank you for this! So good!

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com