Me used to be angry young man
Me hiding me head in the sand. You gave me the word. I finally heard. I’m doing the best that I can.
Why is it that the Beatles so often relate to my life so closely? I find my experiences, feelings, and even my spirituality reflected in their lyrics and music. At various times in my own life I could have shouted, “Help me if you can, I’m feeling down; and I do appreciate you being ’round.” “Say the Word and you’ll be free … Have you heard, the word is LOVE?” “You don’t realize how much I need you.” Even in my practice of meditation, “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.”
I tend to be a big fan of Paul’s music, of John’s raw emotion, and of George’s spirituality. Today it’s the classic “Getting Better,” one of Paul’s gems. Well, except for the whole “I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved.” That’s nothing like my relationship with Katy.
But I did used to be an angry young man. More accurately, I have a tendency to be a depressed man, and that depression can manifest itself as anger. If I let myself, I can be a downright bitter, cynical, jaded and angry person. But as I’ve gotten older I came to the realization that my Angry Young Man shtick got old. Real old. And not just to those around me. To me too. If I’m going to burn my energy on emotion, anger is just not one that’s ever going to do me any good. Living with regrets caused by angry actions requires a lot of mental and emotional energy that I’m not willing to expend anymore.
I wish I could say that it was easy, but in the words of Steve Earle, transcendence is never easy. Insight – while essential to healing – is never enough. It’s taken a lot of prayer, a lot of time, some counseling and antidepressant medication to get me where I am today. It’s taken behavioral intervention and work. I’ve had to learn to recognize my patterns of bitterness before they turn even unhealthier. I’ve learned to trust my wife who sees those patterns before I can. I’ve learned that anger might get my way in the short term but always messes things up in the long term. The reinforcement of the short-term benefits makes it difficult to let go of anger because in the heat of the moment I can only see the short term. I have to be intentional in reminding myself that I am not the center of the universe or even of my own little world, and that what I want right now may not be what’s good for me or anyone around me.
There’s a famous photograph of John Lennon at his desk, and you can see a postcard he wrote to his son Julian. It reads, “Every day, in every way I’m getting better and better.” John later used that line (changing I’m to it’s) in his song Beautiful Boy. And that’s very much how I feel these days. I sincerely believe that God’s healing in my own life has come in the form of excellent counselors, a patient and loving family, and even antidepressants. I simply cannot deny that the power of love is transforming me. I am becoming a better man, a better person, because I am loved.