I still remember the way the pizza hit his car. I took it out from the box, didn’t think for a second, and smashed it against the hood.
He had just bought this car a few months ago. It was his pride and joy. A bright red, 60’s sports car. He loved showing it off, loved driving it around.
And now I had smashed it with greasy, fatty pizza. It felt so freaking good. So, naturally, I took out another piece. Smash.
He was one of the friends in the group you see, I had been friends with him since middle school. Now we were in college and all hanging out together again over the summer.
We had gotten into a debate about whether atheism was a religion. I think we were playing some sort of question and answer game, and the question was, “What is the most dangerous religion?” and I had said atheism.
He got out of his seat when I announced my answer. He said, “Are you kidding me, Elad?! Atheism? First of all…”
And thus the name-calling and accusations began. As I sat there as he berated me, I felt my blood pressure increase, my hands twitch, my eyes harden.
One thing about me… I had this tendency to hate certain people. With a passion. I saw things they did that weren’t right, and I would get so angry.
And this guy, he was one of those enemies. All he did was upset me.
And now, the enemy was standing over me, yelling at me, telling me what a jackass I was, and how I didn’t know anything about religion or atheism or anything else.
I looked to my side. It was the pizza I had brought over for everyone. And no one was grateful, no one had even a bite, especially the guy who happened to be yelling in my face right now.
So, without thinking, I was up also, yelling right back at him.
As I yelled, I looked around at all my friends. None of them were leaping to my rescue, backing me up. They were all sitting there, their heads in their faces.
The injustice of it all hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was, just playing cards like anyone else, being a nice fellow, and this man just started yelling at me. And now that I was standing up for myself, and no one had my back! I felt so frustrated with it all, so angry.
And then I noticed that pizza again. I grabbed it. Walked outside without a word, blood raging within. Then I was out there, alone, looking at that bright red piece of crap. Walked right up to it.
And started smashing.
And as that blood was raging in my brain and his car was covered in a box’s-worth of melted mozzarella, tomato sauce, and crust, I believed that I had finally made my mark. That he would finally learn his lesson, that my friends would understand what a bastard he was, and how they should stop being friends with him. I really thought that.
But something weird happened. Instead of teaching him a lesson, the guy decided he just wanted to stop spending time around me (if you can believe it). And so for the rest of the summer, our friends treated us like divorcees, spending half their time with me, half their time with him. They treated me like I had done something just as wrong as him!
In other words, nothing was accomplished. He stayed angry, I stayed angry, and our friends were stuck in the middle.
Since then, I try to think that I’ve matured, trying to believe that I learned something from all that. I mean, I have not thrown pizza on anyone’s car since then. Aren’t you proud of me?
But sometimes I wonder how much I really learned. Sometimes I wonder if I really grew.
Because there’s this thing that happens sometimes. I read about somebody or somebodies who are doing something wrong. Or I’ll even read a blogger somewhere, sometime, who is saying mean, nasty things about me.
And I’ll be thrown into a rage, and I’ll look for the thing closest at me to throw. And these people, whether they be another blogger or some sort of sworn enemy, are far away, so all I can do is spit out an angry blog post or Facebook update.
I’ve thought about this recently, as I’ve been looking over things I have written in an angry fit in the past, or the times I vented to the people around me about my anger, talking negatively about others in the process.
I look back on it, and I wonder… maybe I haven’t stopped throwing pizzas. Maybe the pizza was just the weapon that happened to be closest to me at the time. A way for me to humiliate and hurt another person in one fell swoop.
And maybe, when I’ve gotten angry and I’ve written angry posts or done something else to “vent”, I’ve just perpetuated the same result that happened in those young, confused days of college.
The people I’ve allowed my anger to vent out on, the people whose injustice I tried to confront in the same way, in the end, there’s the same result as I had with my red-car-driving friend of mine. Perpetual divorce and disconnection.
A study recently explored the idea of venting anger. The question posed by the study was whether venting actually helps a person feel better.
The result: venting just made people more angry. More vengeful. They wanted to hurt their enemies more, not less. People that worked to calm themselves were the most forgiving.
In other words, allowing rage to burn, allowing it to take ahold of us, doesn’t extinguish anger. It feeds it.
Throwing that pizza in the moment felt good. I felt a release, no question. Same as when I’ve allowed myself to be angry at the ones who I perceived as having “wronged” me and others.
But in the long term, the release is just an illusion. A short-term gain that’s really more like taking a drug that you’ll need to keep taking to feel better.
Anger feeds anger. Revenge fuels rage.
It’s only when we learn to let go, to see past the enemy and at the mirror they’re holding up to our own actions that anything can really change.