Why Are We So Angry? The Hidden Culprit We May Be Missing - 96five Family Radio

Why Are We So Angry? The Hidden Culprit We May Be Missing

Signs are popping up everywhere, urging people to stay calm and refrain from abusive behaviour. How have we become so angry with each other?

By Sheridan VoyseyThursday 6 Jun 2024RelationshipsReading Time: 3 minutes

I recently sat in a doctor’s office waiting for a routine check-up.

Tired of scrolling my phone, uninterested in the dog-eared gardening magazine on the table nearby, I paid the information screen on the wall more attention than usual. A message soon flashed up that felt out of sorts in this place of care: “Abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. Please treat our staff with respect.”

Signs of Our (Angry) Times

I took a bus after my appointment, its information screen requesting me to be kind to its drivers. The library had a similar sign for its staff, as did the café, and the hardware store. My local train station tried injecting humour into the problem, its large platform posters picturing a porcupine with the headline, “There’s no excuse for bristly behaviour.” Maybe my Gen-X memory is getting fuzzy, but I don’t remember such signs even a few years ago. The problem seems to be widespread—and widely spreading.

Headteachers in England say behaviour in schools is getting worse, not just from students but their parents. One study has found song lyrics are becoming angrier and more self-obsessed, and behaviour at music gigs is following suit. Meanwhile, UK prisons were recently at risk of running out of cells. What is going on?

How have we become so angry with each other?

Root Causes

According to the Gallop Global Emotions Report, anger around the world has been rising since 2016. We’ve certainly had some stresses since then: Referendums that revealed our divisions, cost of living crises, oversees wars and their local ramifications, a pandemic. We could add political polarisation, fake news, and social media algorithms into the mix. A significant cause of our decline is our loss of values and abandonment of moral formation. But I wonder if another, more hidden, culprit has also been at work:

Loneliness.

Psychologists have long known the link between loneliness and aggression, confirmed in recent studies of both adolescents and seniors. Left unaddressed, loneliness can breed mistrust, mistrust can breed fear, fear can breed self-protection, and soon even a librarian is seen as a threat. While not all lonely people are angry (far from it), many angry people are lonely. I think US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in his book Together, has it right:

“Loneliness is the root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today—from alcohol and drug addiction to violence to depression and anxiety.”

Atonement

This all makes sense when viewed through the lens of Christian faith. Because we’ve been made in the image of a relational God, connection with each other is woven into the fabric of our being, making tears in that fabric so painful. Thankfully, while forces within us and around us seek to force us apart, God is out to bring us together. The Christian word for this is atonement—Jesus’ life, death and resurrection interrupts those forces, forgives us for our part in perpetuating them, then mends our broken threads, first with God, then with each other, to make us one (what at-one-ment means). I’ve seen this happen in many lives, not least my own.

Those signs haven’t been up long, giving me hope they could come down just as quickly. But will we have the humility and will to halt the trend? Maybe the first step is to pause, take a breath, pray a prayer when tensions next arise with that person across the counter—viewing them not as threat, but as potential friend.


Article supplied with thanks to Sheridan Voysey.

About the Author: Sheridan Voysey is an author and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His latest book is called Reflect with Sheridan. Download his FREE inspirational printable The Creed here.

Feature image: Photo by Nik on Unsplash