Don’t Let The Sun Go Down (on your anger)


 When newly married, my wife and I received the councel never to let the sun go down on our anger. Such great advise!

 The message was to regard the present moment as all-important, especially if it was a difficult one, filled with tension and misunderstanding. 

 The challenge became, in light of the advise to find resolve before the sun vanished - would we work things out, or let things go? Would we face problems or ignore them?

 We were understanding that nothing was more important than to stay with each other right at the point when that’s the last thing either of us wanted to do!  

 We had heard that one man’s strategy for conflict resolution was to say simply: 'Shut up, dear and go to sleep!’ A perhaps tempting solution to apply to a late night whiner, but maybe not a very helpful way to go.

 So here's the scene: It’s late in the evening. The sun’s about to go down and a couple’s horns are locked in mortal combat. A conflict rages. Maybe it’s a battle over 'a money issue,' or 'how to raise the children,' or it’s that 'we should be united in a spiritual commitment, or the complaint that 'you don’t listen to me!' In fact, you are never here, even when you’re here

 As not a few women have exclaimed to their husbands: 'You live elsewhere, distracted and disembodied. You come alive, in some sense, in your man cave while watching an action movie, or when the hockey game is on, but otherwise you're an absent, unfeeling blob!’ 

'You are not alive and present to me! When are you going to show up around here as a caring, listening presence?' 

 So here the couple is, late at night and at loggerheads about something or other. The bedroom has become a battlefield. Blood’s been spilt by furious tongue lashings.  

 That sweet little thing you’ve been calling honey, dear, or your darling in public, has just tried to strangle you again. 

 The tension is thick. It feels like there is no way out and no possibility of resolution.

 Well, here we go with the advise: This is the moment! This is the moment that counts for everything. 

 Do not wait till morning! That's the great mistake. Do not set the matter aside or put it off. For it is this moment, especially if it’s a moment of seemingly unbearable tension, that has everything in it. Do not miss it!  

 Some reject this idea of mine. They say that it’s better to wait until morning to talk when, after a good night’s rest, the tension will have subsided.

 They say to me that you can’t find peace when you’re in the midst of tension. My view is the opposite of that.

 I think that waiting until morning is the practice of avoidance. For it is when there is a crisis or conflict, when the tension is at its maximum, when all hell is breaking loose, that the field is ripe for harvest.

 A breakthrough now while in the midst of crisis will reap huge and long term benefits. If a way is found through the conflict there will be a sense of triumph that the two of us can work anything out.  

 Until that late-night crisis, it may have been that grievances had been ignored and buried as a way of coping. 

 Now that some issue has arisen, it’s a great chance to come to an understanding about it. 

 If not, there’s likely to be a fair amount of sleep-walking during the day on the part of those who failed the night before to tackle their various demons. They let the sun go down on their anger, instead of exploring things to the point of understanding. 

 The point therefore is to face the conflict now before the sun sets, before the opportunity is lost. For when morning comes, there are always things to do and distractions to be found in order to put off to some future date what needs to be faced head-on now

 My sense is that not a few couples live with some level of peace between them but not with that deep and lasting peace attained by those who have together tackled their demons. 

 What some call the peace between them is a false, superficial peace which when looked at carefully, turns out to be but a long term practice of putting out the fire in each other

 So I doubt if what is called ‘peace,’ is actually ‘peace,’ but rather a form of denial and a well practiced disengagement.   

 Perhaps you’ve met people like this. There’s some level of peace in that they are at least not shouting each other down in the super-market, but no fire of inspiration exists between them.

 Folk like this are everywhere, living out a contagion of dullness.

 These are the ’nice’ people, who live their lives bloodlessly and soullessly. It may take many days to recover from having spent time with the nice people who showed up at your home during the Christmas season.  

 Thus in my estimation, nice people are dangerous beings. A scourge on the face of the earth. Soul squashers. They are ever so ‘nice’ because they didn’t stay up last night, or any other night, to find deep understanding. 

 They have let the sun go down on their anger so many times that they have become numb.  

 The philosopher, Josef Pieper, made it his strongest point to emphasize what he called an "assent to the world,” by which he meant an unflinchingly determination to put yourself into accord with reality. 

 To assent to the world, is to fully embrace what is, including the tragic dimensions of life. To engage thus, is what the ‘nice’ people of the world are determined never to do. Hence the atmosphere of tedium whenever they appear.

 Generally, said Pieper, people do not live "in the frame of mind to contemplate or to inquire.” They are too busy and preoccupied to ever engage with others in meaningful ways. 

 Thus I wish to say again that the late evening crisis is a door of opportunity. To stay in the crisis moment with your loved love until understanding is reached is worth whatever time and energy it takes.  

 The determination to do that is related to the desire to experience a quality of love that will endure while lesser loves crash and burn all around you.