We often hear people make comments such as, "That makes me mad" or "She made me mad." Such statements reflect a common misconception about anger, namely, that people or events cause us to get angry. In reality, people or events do not make us get mad; we get mad because we were demanding something that we didn't get. If I'm demanding that another person respond in a certain way, and they don't, I'll get mad. If I'm demanding that a certain event work out a certain way, and it doesn't, I'll get mad.
Because our anger is the result of our choice to demand something, and not the result of how others treat me or how events turn out, we are responsible for our subsequent anger. On the surface, it looks and feels like those people or circumstances are "making us mad," but in reality, it is our blocked demand that is really causing us to get angry.
I spoke with a friend a few days ago who was nearly in a rage over something a business partner had done. Yes, the friend had treated him poorly and he had been terribly betrayed. He desperately wanted to get rid of his anger, because he knew it was "eating him up" inside, but he didn't know what to do to get rid of it.
As we talked about his anger, it was clear that like so many people I talk with, he was under the mistaken impression that it was what his business partner did to him that was causing his anger. Because what his business partner did was clearly wrong, and it created difficult circumstances in my friend's life, he saw himself as a victim who had no choice but to be angry.
What my friend was not aware of was that while he could not keep from getting hurt, he could avoid getting angry. His hurt turned to anger because he was demanding to be treated fairly and with respect, and he wasn’t.
So many people go through their day responding to the inevitable frustrations and trials of life with a knee jerk response that is automatically set to anger. They sadly unaware that their anger is an inevitable response to being blocked from something they are unknowingly demanding.are In an imperfect, fallen world, when I am demanding that people act a certain way or things turn out a certain way, it is only a matter of time before we get angry.