Hothead 101

  Lou had had enough. He learned that his wife was having an affair. And, even after he confronted her, she continued to cheat on him. So after his wife left the house one day to meet her paramour at a restaurant, Lou followed. When he saw them together, he beat the lover senseless with a motorcycle helmet, and then rammed the guy's SUV into a fire hydrant. But instead of throwing the book at Lou, the court sent him to school—anger management school, that is. Lou is one of the thousands of offenders who have been ordered to attend classes on how to control their temper. Included in these court-ordered "time outs" are rock stars Tommy Lee and Courtney Love, and that paragon of self-control, boxer Mike Tyson. The classes aren't limited to those who have broken the law. As Time magazine reported, many private firms are sending their irascible employees to these kinds of classes, as well. The best-known example of such a referral is Latrell Sprewell, the basketball star. After choking his coach—twice—Sprewell was ordered by the NBA to attend classes on how to control his rage. What do Lou, Latrell, and all the others learn in these classes? Nothing that our parents shouldn't have already taught us: Count to ten when you get angry. Don't let little things upset you. And accept another person's opinion without going ballistic. This advice is so obvious that people like Pamela Hollenhort, of the University of Wisconsin, are wondering about the wisdom of using such programs. She questions whether many of the people referred to anger management classes really have a problem with their tempers, or whether, in her estimation, many of them are simply "cruel" and "manipulative." She's right. Anger management, like the rest of what has been called the "therapeutic culture," proceeds from a flawed understanding of human nature—a false worldview. It assumes that people are basically good and that episodes like the ones that land them in these classes are aberrations. If this is true, then all that's required is learning techniques to help us handle stressful moments gracefully. We can teach people to be "nice." But as thousands of years of recorded human history—as well as Scripture—teaches us clearly, mankind is not basically good—we're fallen. We're inclined to self- centeredness and selfishness. In some of us, this results in a willingness to hurt others when we get our own feelings hurt, or don't get our way. Therefore, there are only two ways to address the problem. The first is by building character in young people, teaching them to respect others. And the other? Conversion. In twenty years of prison ministry, I've seen men and women with real rage problems, and I've seen them change completely. The difference Christ makes is so profound that it's hard to believe that these offenders were ever capable of committing the crimes that landed them in prison. So the next time you hear about some celebrity or athlete being ordered to attend anger management classes, take the opportunity to tell your neighbors why these programs-- and all the rest of our therapeutic culture—simply can't work. And tell them that if we really want to make a difference, we need to throw a different book at these offenders.


Chuck Colson


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