I read an article recently titled, “Who Are You Really Mad At?” I won’t go so far as to say it was groundbreaking or totally life changing, but I will say it is like a great movie – I can’t get it out of my head even days later. The gist of the story, as the headline suggests, is we often take out things on the people that don’t deserve it. It begins as the author describes following a father accompanied by his older son and younger daughter.
The young boy says something to the father and his dad responds with anger. After berating the boy moments later the boy hits his little sister. It’s a visual that’s very sticky. And, the simple of idea conveyed by those actions is one that we can all relate to.
The story continues to the author’s eventual discovery that he’s really been trying to impress his mother his whole life or something like that. My outcome from the story is a little less physiatrist couch fodder, but it could rise to the level of (temporary) revelation nonetheless.
The concept is simple and straightforward. Paying attention for only a few days I can see that most of the time when I’m mad at someone I’m really not mad at him or her. Instead, I’m mad at something else. It’s been a few days since I’ve read the story but it hasn’t left my head. What I’m sorry to report is that most of the time I am simply mad at myself and frustrated by whomever I think I’m mad at. I’m mad at myself for not doing what I should have done. I’m mad at myself for a variety of reasons but usually I can trace the responsibility to me.
I was so moved I shared the story with everyone in my office. It’s become sort of a joke. Every time someone gets upset and you can see frustration building somebody else will say, “David, who are you really mad at?” It’s funny for sure and more than a bit disarming.
Despite the comedic value I have to feel like it has raised awareness on both ends. If you are the one upset, you consider what’s behind it all. If you the one the frustration is directed toward, you consider the notion of forgiveness and patience quicker. Both are a great result from a simple story that’s easily conveyed with a headline and two sentences about a father, son, and a little girl.