Do you ever get tired of New Age gurus preaching that you shouldn’t be angry. If you’re anything like me, sometimes you are angry. I’ll bet you’re angry when people you trust betray you. I’ll bet you’re angry when people make promises they don’t keep.

Anger is a wonderful messenger. It is vital to notice it when it shows up. Listen to it with respect and figure out what message it is bringing. The message is only partly about what someone else is doing. More importantly, the message is about what you are going to do in response. While you don’t need to punch someone in the face, you do need to listen to your anger. If you ignore its message, telling yourself you “shouldn’t” be angry, you risk being out of integrity and enabling injustice, disrespect, and lack of accountability.

In my family, anger was not considered a “nice” emotion. My mother rarely expressed it. Neither did my father. There was an occasional exception.

When I was three years old, my mother and I were standing on the sidewalk near Roosevelt Boulevard, a multi-lane highway in Northeast Philadelphia. Suddenly, I jerked my hand away from my mother’s grasp and darted out onto the highway. My mother erupted with terror and fury. Her only daughter, in whom she had invested so much time, energy, care, and love, was stupidly going to kill herself. Had I killed myself, I would simultaneously have killed much of the meaning in my mother’s life. She ran after me, dragged me back to the sidewalk, and vehemently spanked me. I deserved that spanking. It quickly taught me not to run in front of cars.

When I first became a divorcee and new attorney working 80 hours a week, I was also the mother of a rebellious teenage son. One day, when my parents were visiting, my son began using vile language in front of his grandfather. My father chased him right up the stairs to his room, letting him know in no uncertain terms that his behavior was not acceptable in our household. He never did it again.

I have always rebelled against arrogant dictators. As a ninth grade student and editor of the school newspaper, I wrote an editorial supporting freedom of speech. It didn’t sit well with the newspaper advisor. She rewrote my article, toned it down, appended my name, and told me why what I had written was wrong.

I rarely confronted a teacher. In fact, I was normally a model student. In this situation, I was not willing to be trampled under her foot. “Since you wrote it,” I cried, “you sign your name to it.” I stormed out of the room and sobbed for half an hour.

My adopted brother had always resented the fact that I was my parents’ natural born child, did better in school, and was better educated. One day, my husband and I were visiting. My brother began ranting and raving about lawyers and how crooked they were. I sat in silence, detaching for awhile, and then I could feel the rage welling up in my body. By making generalizations about lawyers, he was verbally abusing his own sister. Finally, I had had enough. I got up, told him we had to leave, and headed for the door. The tirade immediately stopped, but my husband and I didn’t.

When I was practicing law, I worked for a client whose home was damaged by fire. Her mortgage company lost the insurance proceeds check. She called, left messages, and suffered in limbo, her calls unanswered. When she did get through, the company transferred her from one employee to another with no resolution of the problem. They were wasting my client’s time, energy and money.

My client could not repair her house without the insurance money. She was paying rent elsewhere. After a year of trying to resolve the problem, she wrongly, but understandably, stopped making mortgage payments.

The mortgage company immediately began foreclosure. My client was never served with the summons and complaint. By the time she came for legal help, her home was scheduled for Sheriff’s Sale. Because she had never been served, she didn’t even know about the Sheriff’s Sale. She was aghast!

I called the attorney for the mortgage company, requested his cooperation in postponing the Sheriff’s Sale, and asked him to provide me with documentation so we could get the insurance check reissued, the property repaired, and the mortgage paid. Although he promised to speak with the mortgage company, he didn’t postpone the Sheriff’s Sale, didn’t provide the requested documentation, didn’t answer my follow-up letters, and refused to accept my phone calls. I was furious with this disrespectful and unaccountable idiot!

In New Jersey, an owner of property being foreclosed is allowed two automatic postponements of a Sheriff’s Sale. I requested one and immediately filed a Motion to Vacate Final Judgment. I enjoyed letting my outrage show. My courtesy had accomplished nothing. My anger got the opposing attorney’s attention.

At 5 p.m. on the day before the court hearing, he called to tell me his client had consented to vacate the judgment, would provide the requested documentation, and would cooperate in getting the property repaired so my client could move back in.

I could have chosen to stuff my outrage over the treatment my client and I received. I could have chosen to “radiate a hot, bright light outward” toward the mortgage company and its attorney, but I doubt that action would have stopped the Sheriff’s Sale, saved my client’s home, and transformed the attitudes of the mortgage company and its attorney from “Don’t bother me” to “Of course, we’ll work with you to get this matter resolved.”

Anger is a hugely valuable messenger. Listen to it and treat it with respect.

Author's Bio: 

Janet Smith Warfield is a retired attorney, author, publisher, grandmother, mediator, and poet. She graduated from Swarthmore College and cum laude from Rutgers School of Law, Camden, practicing law in the State of New Jersey for 22 years. Her book Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World, was the Best New Age Non-Fiction Winner in the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and has been acclaimed “Pivotal”, “a Revelation and Revolution”, “Difficult to Put Down”, “A Wonderful Guide to Life’s Lessons and Truths”, “Eloquently Expressed”, “A Book to Be Valued and Reread.” Shift is a book readers loan to their friends and don’t get back.