Remember the Incredible Hulk TV show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno? It was an episodic TV series in the 1970s featuring a timid scientist and his monstrous alter ego. Whenever Bruce Banner (Bixby) got angry, he would turn into a rampaging green monster (Ferrigno in body paint), oblivious to reason and bent on destruction. The giant beast was so focused on his own rage that he lashed out at anyone and anything that had the misfortune to be near him.
Fortunately that is just fiction. In real life we don’t turn green when we let anger control us. The rest is fairly accurate, though. It may not manifest itself physically as it did with the Hulk, but anger does transform a person in some very unpleasant ways.
In the show, the enraged Hulk would stomp around growling and smashing things indiscriminately in his attempt to get a measure of revenge on the person or thing that angered him. More often than not, his wrath was not spent exclusively on his nemesis. What started out as a direct reaction to a perceived attack turned into an all encompassing rage that showed no partiality. Everyone around him, regardless of guilt or innocence, friend or foe, suffered whenever he would “Hulk out” and explode in a fit of anger.
The Hulk’s angry rampages caused a great deal of damage to his physical surroundings, but also caused immense stress in his relationships with other people. Because he could not control his anger, he found it impossible to maintain friendships for any length of time. Every week, his anger wore out his welcome wherever he was. At the end of every episode, Banner would walk down the road as sad music played, trying to hitch a ride to somewhere else.
Banner’s famous catch phrase was “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Despite the warning, within moments of giving this advice to the local bully Banner would inevitably give in and get angry anyway, transforming into the mindless Hulk. The Hulk would dominate Banner’s personality until he found a moment of calm contemplation, at which point the green behemoth would fade away and Banner’s faculties would return.
Sadly, his return to clarity and peace always came too late. The Hulk had lashed out until his anger was exhausted. Anyone who had crossed his path had felt the effects of his anger. By the time Banner regained control, he would soon be hearing the sad walking away music as he ran away to once again seek a fresh start someplace new.
Each of us has a Hulk inside, just waiting to be let out. There is, however, an anti-hulk formula that will keep the monster at bay. There is an opponent that the brute strength of the Hulk cannot overpower. The one thing powerful enough to defeat the mighty Hulk is forgiveness.
It may not have made very compelling TV, but Banner could have prevented many an outbreak and saved millions of dollars in collateral damage, not to mention his relationships, if he had the capacity to forgive a wrong done. Dr. Banner was a prisoner to his own anger, and it ruined his life. Forgiveness is the one and only balm that can sooth the pain and hurt that leads to and flows from anger.
Just as the Hulk’s outbursts caused damage to more than just his intended target, so too we hurt those around us when we let anger rule us. The Hulk caused tremendous physical damage by smashing mailboxes and police cars. Our collateral damage tends to be more emotional, and the recipients are our friends, our family, and our coworkers. Those closest to us suffer the most.
Also like the Hulk’s hapless alter ego, we will wear out our welcome with friends and coworkers if they repeatedly find themselves suffering the brunt of our anger. Even good friends who care deeply for you have their limits. No one will tolerate such undeserved abuse forever.
And like the Hulk, if we allow anger to control us until the rage is spent, it may well be too late to repair the damage done and restore our relationships. You cannot un-ring a bell, the Hulk couldn’t un-smash a building, and you can’t un-say hurtful words. The only way to preserve our relationships is to control our anger before it can control us.
Which brings us back to forgiveness, the one true cure for anger. It is almost impossible to remain angry once you have really and truly forgiven someone. Not the significant use of the words ‘really’ and ‘truly’ in that sentence. Forgiveness has to be sincere. Faking it will only deepen the anger and mix it with an unhealthy sense of resentment and bitterness.
Anger is a deceptive emotion. It pulls us in and gives us a false feeling of righteousness. Everyone gets angry, but anger has a devious way of feeding upon itself and keeping us angry. Anger is like an addiction. It has nothing but detrimental effects on us, but sometimes we continue diving deeper and deeper into our inner pool of rage until we find it very difficult to change our mindset. Unless we take the proper steps to counteract it, that lingering anger will block our path back to our natural state of happiness.
If you can find it deep within you to forgive, the anger melts away. Just as the Hulk transforms back to mild Dr. Banner when he calms down, you return to who you truly are when you can move past the anger to see the world as it is. When you forgive the offender, you free yourself to be yourself. You spare your loved ones the brunt of you unfocused anger. You can cross the bridge from despair and anger to a healthy balance in your life.
The next time that anger threatens to control you, remember the lesson of the Incredible Hulk. The show has long since been cancelled, but you can still learn from his experiences. You can tame the angry Hulk within you with the healing power of forgiveness.
More information: The Choice of Forgiveness Mini-Course
It will look like this: Tame The Angry Hulk With The Healing Power of Forgiveness