My grandson got married, but I wasn’t invited.
Amazing, isn’t it? All I did was show him love and buy him things. OK, he just turned four years old, and his parents weren’t invited either. Nor, from what I hear, were the parents of the bride.
I’ve seen photos of him holding hands with his “wife,” even in preschool.
Who knows what they do when no one is around?
But if this is how love starts, I approve. Fill your hearts full, children, because life will drain them, too — then, with luck, refill them again. Kind of like going to the gas or petrol station.
As to anger, let me say a little about that.
Anger is like a multi-blade knife with blades sharpened to a keen edge, mindless of who it cuts and capable of slicing both ways.
Where does such intense dislike come from?
First comes love, then rejection, then reaction to the dismissal from the life of another. A whisper saying you’re fired, no matter how delicate the voice.
Or, perhaps the starting point of antagonism is a failure to win respect, approval, and acknowledgment. Loathing can grow from the absence of caring parents or the simple difficulty of achieving success, however you define it.
Therapists have all heard the conventional wisdom that depression is anger turned inward. Don’t forget, however, that anger can result from disappointment in life turned outward.
We live in a competitive world, including competition for mates. Someday these two kids will seek consolation for a broken heart.
Someone will say, “Oh, you are better off without him,” or “He isn’t right for you,” but such statements rarely console.
Neither do they provide solace when the words are, “Oh, you are better off without that job — it wasn’t right for you.” Of course, both the young ones are far from the job market.
As we witness a world with more than its share of anger beyond romantic and professional disappointment, many of us are triggered by something less tender than lost love.
Some feel displaced from their spot in the world, their previous role as a worthy breadwinner, or as a person known for giving good advice and helping a neighbor fix his car.
Populist politicians and their allies play on this sense of injury, fomenting anger upon anger like a giant test tube full of bile with daily inflammatory statements, addictive but strangely validating.
Yeah! He gets it. It’s not my fault. I’ve been screwed! It’s THOSE people. They don’t look like us, don’t believe in our god, and steal our birthright.
My grandson and the love of his life don’t know about any of this. They only know about respect, affection, friends, and toys. Maybe an occasional “enemy,” meaning a minor league bully or two, but nothing serious.
We all want love, don’t we? We all hope for applause, a job that pays well enough, status, and an appreciative mate. We all hope to be well thought of, praised, and admired by those to whom we are close.
In a different world perhaps this wouldn’t be much to ask for, but these days we are too often replacement parts that have been replaced.
Confronting a sense of disappointment in life, too many hunger to pay back those they think are responsible. They only need a model and some encouragement. When all the guys are whining, somehow whining is OK, not as shameful as it used to be.
Still, we search for someone loveable. If politics enters that pursuit, it can be contaminated by opinions that tend to be unloving.
We are not as companionable as we were a few years back. Now we grind our teeth or laugh at the ones “ruining” our country, whoever they are, however preposterous the claim.
We lack the innocence of my grandson and his companion. Indeed, when she was ill and away from school for a week, he missed her and worried about her, dear boy.
Lucky for them, they are not on the internet, an occasionally monstrous place. Many of our interactions with fellow humans come electronically, where plenty of anonymous hatred can be found.
Despite all its wonders, metaphorical bombs are easily thrown by those who are literally out of sight.
If one imbibes the toxic message of anger now widely distributed, I doubt one will become more tender or charming. The four-year-olds have innate wisdom and sweetness, qualities not characteristic of those addicted to TV’s political anger-fests.
Nor will the Rageaholics have much reason to approach those of different races, nationalities, ethnicities, or religions, perhaps even those who pray to no god.
Trust me — one of them might be “the one.” Or, at least, a friend not so different from you as you thought.
We live in a time of loneliness, the anonymity of cities, and the solitary pursuit of “being your own person,” however worthwhile that may be.
Though the small ones don’t know it yet, the time of our lives walks and whistles quickly past the clock, especially if one desires to be loved.
Companionship begins with a decision to pursue it, knowing armorless vulnerability places the heart at risk. The kids haven’t learned that yet, either.
The second decision is this one, made by a wise man over 2500 years ago:
I don’t have time to hate people who hate me because I am too busy loving people who love me.*
An ancient Chinese man said this, but the kids I’m talking about live it.
*Laozi, also known as Lau Tzu (the “Old Master”) born in 604 B.C.
The top image is a 1957 photo of Two Children Holding Hands by Irvin Peithman, sourced from Wikiart.com.
What a powerful and timely post, Dr. Stein… I have a photo of MY first marriage to my friend Charlie. We were five years old and just like your grandson, we adored one another. I haven’t seen him in 56 years but I love him still, with that pure love only a five-year-old understands. I felt every word of this post. I am one of those people some would call an ‘empath’: I have an inner radar that picks up on other people’s energy whether I want to or not, especially their anger. I can pick up on a couple who have just had a fight by just walking into a room. I feel such despair, sometimes, at all the anger that seems to permeate…everything… these days. I loved the quote “I don’t have time to hate people who hate me because I am too busy loving people who love me.*”. I do try to focus on those who love me and I have begun practicing mindfulness on a daily basis. I have also been consciously setting up boundaries and I have drastically reduced social media and even the news. It’s constant work, keeping the world’s anger at bay. Thank you very much for this post!
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Thank you, Patty. You sound like a tender soul. Your words are always welcome here. I am glad to hear that the post reminded you of a lovely early memory. Be well.
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That is a truly lovely thing to say, Dr. Stein… my sincerest thanks for making me feel heard and welcome. 🙂🙏💕
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Very sweet of you, Patti.
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I love this line, “Companionship begins with a decision to pursue it, knowing armorless vulnerability places the heart at risk. The kids haven’t learned that yet, either.” I think meaningful writing might start from the same place.
Thank you for another great piece that reminds me to keep orienting myself towards the things that truly matter in life!
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Your comment about writing is interesting. I never thought of it that way, but there is truth in your idea. Thanks, Wynne.
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“I don’t have time to hate people who hate me because I am too busy loving people who love me.” There indeed is so much hatred and anger getting spewed around. I realize that everyone is struggling with their own unhealed issues, depression, betrayals, disillusionments, traumas, and each person can choose to go outward very negatively towards others instead of going inward to heal.
I know the only possible effect I can offer the world is to write in a very supportive way to encourage a few to go through this process. In my own life, I focus on those who love me, by loving them deeply and as meaningfully as possible. This alone has changed my family history of trauma and broken relationships into healthy ones. No, I was not able to have any effect on my mother, but I have released her to her own world and her choices.
We can only help some people, and not everyone. For our own mental health and development, we need to recognize these boundaries and not chew ourselves up inside by reliving the feelings of disappointment, disillusionment, abandonment, and other negatives that come from such a situation.
I just had this discussion with a young married man with respect to his relationship with his mother. Recognizing and accepting that the relationship will never be the kind he needs or craves will help him have peace in his heart instead of turning the anger inward or outward to others.
Small things like this have a ripple effect into other’s lives.
Well said, Tamara. Small things, if the listener takes the difficult challenge as his own.