Ben Gallup was an angry young man. Now he wants to keep others from going down that path.
I wrote this thinking about a student at the school where I teach, a student I haven’t talked to yet. I needed to have some words ready. I hope this has healing power for angry young men, ages 1 to 92, and anyone who has been hurt by angry young men (i.e. everyone).
“Hey, hey, . . . come on over here. I gotta talk to you. Hi, I’m Ben. What’s your name? Good to meet you.
“Listen, you can’t be picking on her like that. And, honestly, I think I see a pattern of behavior in you.
“Tell me if I’m wrong but I think you’re angry, deeply angry. And I’ve seen the way you pick on people, mess with people. It’s like your anger is just overflowing and you take it out on other people in whatever little ways you can, especially on people you don’t think will fight back. I’ve noticed you especially mess with females.
“Now, I’m not trying to scold you. I’m sure you’ve been scolded too many times and that doesn’t help. It just makes things worse. I want to try to help you.
“See, I used to be angry, so deeply angry. I hurt people. I hurt people that I loved, people that loved me. I was dangerous. I left wreckage everywhere I went.
“Yeah, I was angry . . . but underneath my anger, I was in pain. That’s WHY I was angry. I don’t want you to suffer like I did. I don’t want you hurt people. You’ll regret it deeply later on.
“Please, can I tell you some things that saved my life?
“First of all, DO NOT be using drugs and alcohol to try to feel better. That’s like throwing gasoline onto the fire. Yeah, it feels good at first but pretty soon you’ll be in a deeper hell than you knew existed and you’ll be stuck there unless some miracle happens to let you escape.
“Second, anger is an emotion but it’s PHYSICAL too. It’s a poison you have to get out of your body. You gotta work out. Run. Run HARD. If you have access to a gym, go there and go berzerk. If you can’t get to a gym, crank out push ups until you can’t feel your arms. Go to a park and do pull-ups on the playground. FEEL IT. Burn that poison out of your body until it’s gone.
“Third—this is where it gets deep—you have to EXPRESS what you’re going through. See if you can get a guitar or some drums. Maybe you can only play one note but play it HARD like all your anger and pain is flowing into your hands, and going out into that raging sound you’ll be making.
“The best thing for me was always writing lyrics. You have to find a way to put it all into words. When you find just the right words for what you’re going through you will know it. You will FEEL it. Sometimes when I’m writing a song, I have to SCREAM out loud because all of a sudden I feel it so strongly, because I finally hit the nerve. This where you really start getting out the demons. Sometimes when I find the right words I just break down and cry.
“Yeah. Fourth is that you have to cry. I know it’s not “manly” but all that’s a joke anyway and the sooner you figure that out the better. You just be you. You have to have the courage to be real, first with yourself, and be true to the desires in your own heart.
“I couldn’t cry for years. I was too ashamed, even when I was alone. When I finally got the courage to cry, I would TRY to cry, but I still couldn’t do it. I had closed off something DEEP inside. But I finally got it open. It just takes time.
“You HAVE to cry. You have to cry like a little baby. Ha! You have to BE a little baby crying. You have to cry your heart out, until you’re shaking and shivering, and curled up in the corner. Now you’re really letting that poison out. And you’re letting something new in: love.
“Fifth, and this is the key to everything, you have to learn to love yourself and everyone else in this world. You have to FORGIVE all the people that hurt you. You have to forgive YOUR SELF for the stupid things you’ve done. Yeah, this world is unbelievably jacked up and cruel but you have to understand that we’re all just doing our best with what we know, trying to get what we need, trying to FEEL OK. I’ll bet you and I have done things so bad that we’d never admit them to each other, but we were just ignorant. We didn’t know a better way, or we didn’t believe in a better way. We’ve got to understand this so we can love and forgive. If we don’t do that, we just keep suffering and continue the cycle.
“By the way, if you start doing all this, a lot of the people you think are your friends will turn against you. That’s when you know they’re not really your friends. They just want to USE YOU to make themselves feel better. You have to be strong and have courage to be your self. You might have to stop hanging out with some of them.
“But don’t worry, you’ll start to meet all kinds of other people who are trying to live a better way. The more you work out, or make music or art, you’ll find them. Actually, they’ll find YOU. It’s crazy how it works but I promise it’s true. Really, being angry is the loneliest thing in the world. Once you really learn to love yourself and even the people you don’t know, you’ll be like a magnet for the people who will help you lift yourself up. You’ll find people that aren’t just trying to heal themselves, but also trying to heal the world. We have to work together to break these cycles, to change the systems that keep us suffering like this. We’ve got to rise up together and tear off all the chains that keep us down. These are places you’ll find true friends.
“Alright, I know I just dropped a lot on you. For real though, I’m not gonna let you be picking on people. I’m going to to stop you.
“AND I’m going to try to help you.
“It’s not that I’m trying to tell you how to live your life. When it comes down to it, no matter how much help anyone gives you, you’re the one that has to figure it out anyway. I just want you to know that I’ve been through some things that are probably kinda like what you’re going through and I came out on the other side. Not everyone makes it out. And through it all I’ve learned some things I think you’ll find useful.
“So listen, seriously, if you EVER need to talk about ANYTHING, I’m here for you. I’m gonna check in on you and see how you’re doing but don’t be afraid to come to me when you think I might be able to help.
“I care about you. I believe in you. I KNOW you can set yourself free.”
Photo: Vít Hassan/Flickr
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