I grew up in a household full of anger. My earliest memories consist of my parents yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. I remember crying because I was scared by all of the crashing and slamming noises interrupted only by hands slapping on the counter and more screaming.
Fast forward a few years and I remember my mom yelling at me at the top of her lungs for any number of reasons. I didn't do the chores she had asked me to. I wouldn't stop playing videogames to go eat dinner. I was too stupid to understand whatever subject she was trying to teach me. The temper seemed to go from 0 to 60 instantly. There was no hesitation. There was no filter. I thought that was how you were supposed to react to get things done, and I learned that lesson very well at that young age.
Fast forward another decade to internship and 2nd year of residency in General Surgery at UCLA. The lessons I learned as a youth seemed to serve me well. The louder I yelled, the faster things got done for patients. Something got missed for a patient? I could yell at the nurse to scare them into fixing it and (hopefully) not do it again. Things were great! …or so I thought.
Little did I know, the ED hated me. The nurses didn't like working with me. I got written up (for being an unprofessional asshole) more times than I could imagine, but at UCLA, no one seemed to care because I was good and I got the job done. When I came to Loma Linda, it was a different story. I went off on the charge nurse in the ED one night for sending a patient upstairs when I needed to sew up their facial lacerations. I had to sew him up using an iPhone for lighting because there was extremely poor lighting on the hospital floor. The procedure took an extra hour because no materials were available upstairs unlike the ED. It was 1 a.m. when I had finished, and I hadn't eaten or left the hospital since 5 a.m. when I started call the day before. And this stupid nurse had the audacity to send the patient upstairs to screw me over and make things even harder. I was pissed.
Over the next year, I slowly and unknowingly let the anger consume me. I grew bitter towards the nurses who couldn't seem to do their jobs right. I yelled at them for paging me in the middle of the night for dumb stuff. I hated the ED for being too "unskilled" and "stupid" to handle what I thought were simple issues. I railed on interns who called me for dumb consults or who didn't even know what they were calling me for. The anger was eating away at me. I didn't like the person I was. I didn't understand why I had to be so bitter at everyone all the time for not performing the way they should be or for caring about patients as much as I thought they should.
I never understood how anyone could "choose happiness" in those situations until I became Christian. I thought there was no way anyone could be happy when everyone around them fell short of my expectations. Jesus gave me a huge attitude check.
Christians believe that we are all sinners a.k.a. we all do things that are self-centered instead of God-centered. They also believe that there is no way to do enough good to "make up" for the sin you've committed in your life, so we all would have been doomed to hell. However, God chose to rescue us by giving us His only Son. Jesus died for our sins so that we may go to heaven not because we deserved it, but because He loves us.
Because God chose to give us grace when we didn't deserve it, we are called to give others grace even though we may not feel like they deserve it. When I realized and accepted this, my attitude towards others completely changed. There is nothing that anyone else can do that God can't forgive, so there is no reason I shouldn't be able to forgive them either. It doesn't mean that I should accept behavior that isn't good. However, instead of getting angry, I am called to forgive and then address that person's actions in a loving way.
If a nurse screws up an order, there's no reason to yell at her. I can calmly point out what he/she missed and explain why it's important for patient care. If someone says something that offends me, I don't have to lash back at them and create more tension. I can instead try to approach them privately and explain how the comment made me feel and ask them politely not to say it again. If an intern calls me without understanding what they are consulting for, I can browse through the patient information and find out for myself what they likely need help with. Then I can patiently explain to the intern what steps he/she needs to do when calling a consult in an effort to improve them.
"Anyone can get angry and lash out. That's easy. It takes maturity and discipline to control anger and express it in a constructive manner."
I found that the more and more I tried to implement these changes in the way I handled situations, the less angry and bitter I became. Not only that, my relationship with everyone began to improve dramatically. The nursing staff enjoyed having me around and starting doing me favors. The scrub techs always made sure everything was ready for me and joked around with me in the OR. I became friends with many of the ED attendings and residents, who tried to help me out as much as they could when they called me with consults.
In addition, instead of asking myself "why does this have to happen to me?" whenever I get called in to see a consult in the middle of the night, I understand that Jesus has brought these people into my life at this time so that I could help them. It's an opportunity to serve God, and I'll do the best I can.
I'm not perfect, and occasionally, the situation will still get the best of me. However, I do my best to remember the grace that God has given to me, and I try my best to pass it on to others.
"Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." - Colossians 3:13 (TLB)