To build or to destroy

Matt's sweet spirit is a continual inspiration to drive out anger with love. Centerville, Tennessee, August 2007

Matt’s sweet spirit is a continual inspiration to drive out anger with love.
Centerville, Tennessee, August 2007

“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”Malcolm X

“Anger is just anger. It isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It’s like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy…Passion has overthrown tyrants and freed prisoners and slaves. Passion has brought justice where there was savagery. Passion has created freedom where there was nothing but fear. Passion has helped souls rise from the ashes of their horrible lives and build something better, stronger, more beautiful.”Jim Butcher

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”James 1:19-20, NIV

Today (two weeks before this post will publish) my ongoing frustration crossed over to anger, at the endless, exhausting bureaucratic delay and obfuscation that have stood for years now between Matt and an appropriate vocational program or even a day program that would give him something to do with his long hours.

His case worker and countless bureaucrats agree he needs and deserves such services. His cardiologists have put their agreement with our goals in writing, citing Matt’s cardiac health as one reason he needs to maintain an active life.  But the Commonwealth of Virginia has outdated laws that differentiate between autism and other kinds of disabilities, so doors remain closed for many young adults with autism, even as the U. S. Department of Justice works with the state at an agonizingly slow pace toward resolution of this inequity.

As it happens, the post I published one year ago had the interesting title “Jump in the lake.”  So I decided to look at some quotes about anger.  The three I chose to feature above each helped me to focus the inner turmoil that threatened to derail my entire day.

Malcolm’s quote reminded me that anger is often a manifestation of the determination to defeat despair.  Butcher’s quote confirmed my enduring belief that anger can be a tool used to achieve desirable ends.  But the scripture from the book of James, quoted above, ties it together with a wise and powerful warning: that tool should be used carefully, and not in haste.

Note that James does not say we should never speak, or never become angry.  But we should be slow to do so.  Ouch!  I am far too quick to do both. And isn’t it interesting that James ties anger and speaking together, here and elsewhere?

Anger is like fire, helpful only when well controlled.  The reason it does not produce righteousness is that it’s so easily (and often inextricably) mixed with selfishness, jealousy, recklessness, and vengeance, all of which lead to destruction.

When I feel angry, it helps if I remind myself that anger is often a sign of fear, and “perfect love drives out fear.”  Today, I’m going to make a conscious effort to drive fear and anger away, by filling my mind with thoughts of love and gratitude.  If you are struggling with anger, frustration or despair, I send you a special invitation to join me in the effort to use it to build, not destroy.

One year ago tomorrow:

Jump in the lake


  1. Larry

    Grandmother is so happy to see Matt’s smiling picture so early this morning. We are so inspired by your continual effort to make a better life for him. You have worked so hard and you will see great gains from your efforts in due time. Speak as though your speech must be seasoned with salt. Preserved forever as evidence of your efforts.

    • Thank you Larry. I hope not everything I’ve said and done will be preserved forever 😀 but in any case I hope everything balances out in the end with at least a little bit more good than bad.

  2. HarryS

    Thank you Lord for this day and for all that is in it.
    My times are in your hand.
    My soul rests with you, my Anamchara.

    Just an offhand observation.

    It always kind of delights me when I click on a link or an address for a website and the little whirligig starts instantaneously and whirls to the left for a second or two and then whirls to the right for a much less interval of time and then the website stabilizes and will allow navigation with my cursor. The whirl to the left represents the sending of the click out into cyberspace somewhere and the whirl to the right which is obviously much faster represents the response from somewhere out there.
    I’ve been on this computer for several years now and I discover new aspects of its use much to my enchantment most of the time.
    The little whirligig kind of put me in mind of my prayer life especially that speed of the response time. I’d like to think that’s the way it is with God but I also acknowledge that quite often it doesn’t seem like it’s fast enough but by the way, God always answers prayer “in the Nick of time”.

    And another thing!
    I’m tired of waking up almost every morning with a sadness or a little sense of gloom as I think about our beloved Braves and their rapid descent to the pits in the baseball world.
    But what is a fan to do?
    Would it be to be angry?
    Would it be to condemn the young men who are doing the very best that they can at the moment in time with what they have to work with in that moment?

    Is it too early to lament, “Well, just wait till next year”.

    I’m Harry, grateful and disgusted Braves fan. – Also thankful recovering alcoholic.

    PS my problems pale compared to others!

    • Harry, I’ve never noticed that with my computer – I’ll have to pay attention and see if I see the same thing. But I like the analogy to prayer. It seems that rapid responses to anything, while a blessing, tend to predispose us to impatience the next time(s). We are so easily spoiled by indulgence! Speaking of which, I’m not following the Braves right now, but I hear enough discussion between Jeff and Drew that I knew they were not doing well. To me it’s bad karma. They fled the storied Fulton County Stadium grounds (where the good old “Launching Pad” stadium had already been torn down and replaced with the stylized and grossly overpriced tickets and concessions at Turner field) to the north side of town in search of — what, exactly? — I don’t know, but I don’t think it had much to do with baseball. Perhaps when they have done enough penance in the NL basement, they will rise again. Till then, I join my son Drew (another disappointed Braves fan) in encouraging people to seek out the minor league parks, where money and glory are not so prominent as to distract from the game.

  3. Agree, agree, agree!
    Good morning, Julia, you really pulled it all together today! Butcher’s quote highlights the subtle distinction between hope and no hope in that the passion of which he writes is clearly a product of perseverance and hope, while the quick anger cited in James can easily be a destructive force.
    Good stuff to think about. You have clearly focused on love and hope, which drives your passion. I pray for right resolution of your frustrating situation.

    • Susan, thanks so much. Some who know me too well can tell you that my anger often trumps my fear as well as my reason and my patience. I would do well to start each day reading that passage in James. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement! And especially your prayers. I will keep you posted. 🙂

  4. raynard

    Julia you reminded me of this Sesame Street video ” Little Jerry and the Monotones called ” Mad” lol. I heard a favorite teaching Pastor of mine tell a story about him being mad and it motivated him for change. It was seen a young mother angry at her child to the point of abuse.. I was mad Sunday having to go to NJ, missing church but it had to be done. I held my peace at one person but it was draining. If you dont have a support group and outlet, you will” be taking a ride in ‘The Twinkiemobile to the 5th floor in the Hotel Silly..”My wife’s aunt refuses to leave the house even to go see her husband in rehab. That was a exhausting 2 hours trying to get her to go.While family member” on the outside looking in” have all the answers but not willing to get involved and make sacrifices of their time..Now you know why” We take Cannonball Runs ” to unwide and recharge our spiritual batteries. One thing I can share Julia, when you reached the end of your rope” there is always a knot at the end” to keep you from slipping”.. Be blessed

    • Thank you Raynard. I sometimes think that more and more people are getting afraid to leave home where it’s safe and comfy and private. That may apply to those who don’t get involved as well as to your wife’s aunt. If I had known about the Twinkiemobile I might have checked into the 5th floor of the Hotel Silly years ago — all this time I thought the only way to get there was to walk and then climb the steps. 😀 As it is, I’ve been getting by with a few meals at the Hysteria Cafeteria!

  5. MaryAnn

    Looking at this beautiful, cheerful face brings to mind the joy that surrounds “my” Matt! Your constant care, love, & never-ending fight for him buoys his spirit.
    (Ouch! is the perfect report as I am too quick to speak & to become angry. Thanks for the encouragement to find the better way.)
    Bureaucracy & its red tape makes NO sense to me. Even when presented with what is best (as in Matt’s case) and/or what “we the people” have voted into law, the process stagnates!

    • Yes Mary Ann, I often have to remind myself of the old saying, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” 😀 Thanks so much for your kindness toward us, and especially toward Matt!

  6. oh my word. You wrote this post 2 weeks ago and today, when published, I am dealing with anger issues. This morning I tossed them aside as sadness, but no, I’m angry. I cannot help but think of Yoda when he is talking to a young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars episode One. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.” Wise words from a green guy! So today I can choosing to talk to use words of love when I talk to the person who hurt me and I take comfort in all those quotes you listed and call upon Jesus to give me strength in love. Thank you for being brave and sharing this with us! Look how it’s helped me this day 🙂

    • Jenelle, I am so happy that this post was timely for you. Do you not love Yoda? A fount of wisdom he is. I send you this reminder to keep with you every time you are beset with frustrations:

      • Lol, thank you! It’s perfect, Julia and will paste it to my desktop, haha! Love Yoda much I do 🙂

        • Kindred spirits we are!

  7. “…quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” St. James is correct. For in that time of listening, and that time prior to speaking and expressing anger; is where our reason can function best. Where we can think our way to a better solution, or alternate plan. When the level of anger has been reached, that opportunity for reason is gone; because what takes over is an emotion which seeks retribution
    I wish you well, Julia. And hope you will soon receive the services that will benefit Matt.
    Often Catholic Charities can be helpful in this area. If you wish to look outside the box, try
    They at least may answer any questions you may have. Or offer a temporary solution while you wait for the government hurdles to overcome.

    • Thanks so much, Alan. I will certainly explore their programs. Over the years we’ve found that many of the best services for people with disabilities were begun by, and are run by, various church groups. Unfortunately, most of them are still unable to help people except through the mechanisms of government. I was amazed that even trying to private-pay is usually impossible, because they are only set up to take governmental referrals. This is the case with the wonderful l’Arche programs, which are one of many programs that came from within the Catholic church. The residential model of l’Arche is exemplary. I wrote about them here.

      • Thank you Julia for the l”Arche post referral. It was the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, in our town, that was there for me. And, literally, got me back on my feet again. I will keep you, Matt and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

        • Alan, Easter Seals programs have been among the most consistently helpful to us over the years. When people ask me about which charities are good ones to give to, I always recommend them along with a few others. In the various places we have lived, their services and programs have varied, but they have always offered direct services in some form, for which they have my deep gratitude. (Far too many organizations stress consultative, professional education support, political advocacy and outreach roles over direct services to clients, in my opinion — we have plenty of people talking ABOUT us, but too little practical help.) Unfortunately there are no Easter Seals programs in our immediate area. They have a wonderful camp that Matt went to in 2005 in the Blue Ridge mountains, but when his heart condition worsened, we were afraid to send him that far from home — about an 8 hour drive. Thanks so much for your prayers! I believe we have been surviving on prayers for a very long time now.

  8. Julia, I know you are so determined, and your spirit to defeat despair is such an example of your faith and character, to all lucky enough to know you! 🙂 I’m frustrated just to read even with all the support, medical teams included, that Matt continues to be denied what is so valuable to him. WHY? Even so, his smile shines so bright! Thank you for this glimpse of yet another challenge in your life. I know you’ve been dealing with this for so long in Matt’s behalf! Surely your efforts aren’t in vain! Love, Sheila

    • Thanks so much, Sheila, for your encouraging words. I think many of my efforts on various things have been in vain over the years, but hopefully it’s all been a learning process and the overall sum of things isn’t in vain, at least I hope not. I really appreciate your kindness and friendship!

  9. Julia, I know that anger, that frustration and that fear well. I feel for you. I’m here with Petals, and she said “why can’t they just do the right thing?” So true.

    Best of luck as you continued to chop away at the system. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep Matt and everyone else occupied and productive to the extent of their abilities. Thinking of you

    • Thanks Alys, it is a great comfort to know there are so many who have been in similar circumstances, and emerged sane and whole. It’s the relentless nature of it that wears me out most, I think. Endless paperwork, most of which has to be done yearly, and then these new curve balls coming from seemingly every direction. I appreciate your support. It makes me stronger. ❤

      • It is relentless. That’s a good word for it. Exhausting, boring and relentless. Thinking of you.

        • Thanks Alys. I’m sure you discovered, as I have, that the best way to survive is to take breaks from the advocacy every now and then, and focus my energy in other directions. The work is always there when I am ready to come back to it. 😀 Incidentally I think Matt welcomes these “breaks” as much as I do. Sometimes it’s fun to pretend that we have just a “normal” life with nothing different to worry about.

  10. For crying out loud, it all does sound pretty maddening, especially when I look at your dear Matt and think about what he’s been through. You all deserve to be treated with care, dignity and respect and your concerns be actioned quickly. Could that be part of the problem? The bureaucratic nonsense is that they shuffle paper back and forth and absolutely ignore the fact that all that paper is someone’s well-being and not just a file. It seems so insensitive to what would enhance Matt’s life. Thank goodness you have the strength and attitude to persevere. I can’t wait to meet Matt and hug you to bits and spoil the pants off you for a week next spring. It’s not the answer to your troubles but surely you need to be recharged and we are just the two to do it! We all know, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Go forth and squeak Julia! You are a force xoxoxo K

    • K, I smiled reading this, it was such a comfort. I can’t wait til you and Alys meet Matt (and Jeff and me) next spring. Hey, I thought you were staying for a couple of months! 😀 But we will make the most of whatever time you are here. I love your last two sentences, vitamins for the soul! I’ll stay squeaky. ❤

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