Missions Teaches Me They Aren’t Angry at you

Last Saturday I was helping some men work at the church when someone drove by. Noticing me there, he stopped his vehicle, rolled down the window, and proceeded to curse at me. The man was angry about a decision I made a few days before (something that actually needed to be done) and chose to curse me then because other people were around.

I responded with calmness and a smile, so one of the workers asked “why didn’t you yell back?”

I responded….”he’s not angry at me.”

Though I love the Vincentian culture, one part of it that bothers me is private frustrations are aired publicly. It isn’t uncommon for individuals who are angry with each other to begin loudly shouting expletives in the road as people walk by. Even worse this draws the attention of a crowd (which I think is the point) and members of the crowd will begin joining the argument for both sides. I saw an argument like this last almost two-hours a few months ago.

This cultural phenomenon usually referred to “expressing yourself” is flawed of course because everything is done for show. Both times the man confronted me he did so because there was a crowd of people around. He walked by me on other days more than once without saying a word since there wasn’t a crowd.

Even if he did it constantly I am called to respond with grace and peace

This is motivated by the teachings of Scripture

And also by the fact that as I told my friend, he isn’t really angry at me.

Life causes stress for individuals. Often that stress can affect their relationships with others because they are come into a situation already angry. A small inconvenience can then be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Things are stressful right now in Barrouallie since school is starting next week, and many parents are struggling to find the money for books and school clothes. This father like many others was angry about this economic situation instead of my choice.

And because they aren’t really angry at me, we can have a calm conversation later.

This morning the man was sitting on some steps watching his goat eat nearby. I stopped and we had a conversation about the situation. He explained his anger wasn’t towards me, but someone else who was bringing him grief (along with financial needs). I told him that I understood the problem, and just wanted to make sure the situation didn’t become worse.

I walked away reminded how dangerous a word spoken in anger can be. If I had responded in anger on Saturday it would have damaged my testimony (when he wasn’t angry with me anyways). Instead it was replaced with words of grace and kindness that moved past offense.

May the Lord help us bring words of peace into a world filled with anger.

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