Christian Living

Family Matters 04/28/11

Check Your Anger at the Checkout Line

The other day, I ran into the grocery store to pick up a last minute item for dinner. As I meandered through the aisles trying to find the one item I needed, I noticed the checkout lines were long and dotted with carts of overflowing groceries. But then I spied the lone express checkout line and breathed a sign of relief. I was pressed for time and needed to get in and out of that store quickly.

Directly over the cash register of the express line was a large and well-placed sign, 12 items or less. There were three people ahead of me in line, two with one item each. But the woman in directly in front of me- a tall, nicely dressed blond with two cute little girls, didn’t make eye contact and her cart was spilling over with groceries, grossly exceeded the 12-item limit.

So I paused. Do I say something? I really was in a hurry and that was the purpose of the express line! Making sure I didn’t sound angry, I made eye contact and said, “I don’t know if you noticed but this is the express line.” I was kind, smiled and gave her the benefit of the doubt. After all, I’ve stood in that line, dazed, with too many groceries completely oblivious to the fact that I was in the wrong line. When it was brought to my attention, I apologized and moved. Not this woman.

She turned to me and made a very sarcastic remark. Her daughters looked up at mommy and probably wondered what this mean lady was doing to mommy to make her so angry. Mommy was clearly miffed and became instantly rude to me. 

Honestly, I was a little taken aback by her anger and thought, ‘wow, this much anger over a simple request to follow the rules’. Was this rudeness really warranted? I wanted to be her therapist for the moment (of course she was not asking me to be in that role). What message was she sending her children—break the rules and then be rude to someone who calls you on it?

It seems like a small thing, but how often do we feel entitled to do what we want to do regardless of how it impacts others or breaks rules? What are we teaching our kids who watch us speed because we need to be somewhere, cut in line because our time is more important than those who wait, or are rude in public because we are overly stressed?

The way we respond to small things indicates the state of our hearts. When entitlement and anger rear up over something small and insignificant, it’s time to pause and ask,

Am I too stressed?
Do I have an anger problem?
Do I feel entitled?

If the answer is YES to any of these questions, then a little stress and anger management can go along way. All of us probably need to take a deep breath and relax and realize that an extra 10 minutes in line isn’t going to ruin our day.