Our best thinking — and action — comes about when our mind is clear, uninhibited by uncontrolled anger. The painting above, “Below Palouse Falls,” is by Steve Henderson.

This last week, I encountered a number of angry, irritated people. A couple of them came out verbally swinging, and while my first reaction was to swing back, I didn’t. Instead, I did the old “a soft answer turns away wrath” thing.

For one person, it worked. He calmed down, and by the end of the interaction, we were new friends. His problem was successfully resolved.

The other guy wasn’t having anything to do with soft answers and was fully into wrath. He was not interested in explanations, reparations or solutions: He just wanted to vent. Which he did, vociferously.

Suffice it to say, his problem was not solved, and we did not part friends.

Lots of people are angry these days, and understandably so. 

We live in a society where there are decided problems and issues, but no person within our reach who can actually solve them. Instead, we shuffle from one “customer care,” customer service or political aide to the next, with the too frequent response of, “Gee, we’re sorry this happened, but I can’t do anything on my end. I’m really really sorry.”

It’s easy to get mad at the messengers because they’re the only ones we can talk to. 

The people with power to make things right — or wrong — hide in the shadows.

The artwork, “Below Palouse Falls,” gives a visual of where we might want to be in this frustrating situation. 

In our anger, we’re upriver at Palouse Falls (center background — you can see the spray). By the falls proper, a vast cascade of water floods over the cliffs, roiling and boiling in the pool, 200 feet below. This is our anger, and while we are here, we are in danger from the power and flow of water. It can drown us.

But just below the falls, the water calms, and we are able to think more clearly. We need not (and should not) give up pursuing justice, but we do so more wisely and well when we are not venting, in a state of furious, impotent rage.

In a clear place, in a quiet state, we more effectively act.

Carolyn Henderson is a freelance writer who believes in the beauty and value of everyday people — because there are so many of us. She welcomes correspondence at

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