The book is called A Small Book about a Big Problem.¹ It’s fifty devotionals about anger. The question is whether or not it is impolite to give it as a gift.

To give this book to someone is akin to giving a breath mint to the person sitting next to you in church, which happens to me most Sundays when I am sitting next to my wife. So it is okay to give it. We are still happily married.

But there is actually more to this analogy. If I have bad breath, I am the last one to know. Others notice it. I don’t. Those who don’t know me well would never say a word. They would only take a step back. All people-pleasers would remain silent too, because an offer of a breath mint might cause offense. Only the one who loves me the most—and is most affected by it—brings it to my attention.

These are also the ways of anger. Other people are affected by it; the angry person is unaware. Only when a loving person speaks out is there hope for growth and change. Where the analogy breaks down is that unlike bad breath, anger is deadly. It tears down relationships and, left unattended, can take the soul of the person given to anger. So it is okay to give this book to someone, but it is best done with wisdom and love.

Here are some possibilities.

  • [One man giving this to another man…] “I just picked up this book on anger and decided to go through it. Always a relevant topic. I got one for you too. Let’s do it together.”
  • [One woman to another…] “I just picked up this cute little book about anger, patience and peace. The perfect book for parents. I got one for you too. Let’s do it together.”²
  • [Spouse to spouse…] “You have mentioned before that you hope to get a grip on your frustrations. I saw this book and thought it might be helpful. I’d be interested in doing it with you.” Or, “Sometimes you get so angry and I am not sure how to talk to you about it. When we do try, things seem to get worse between us. I thought maybe this book could help move us in the right direction. Would you be willing to go through it and talk about it?”

If you have seen a friend head toward anger, you can be sure that you are only seeing a small piece of something much larger. If you are the spouse of an angry person, then that anger, no matter how infrequent, is tearing down the relationship and time will not change it. In other words, anger is not a problem that we overlook. Those who love do something. Perhaps this book, even if it meets with some initial resistance, could be a way to raise a matter that can be sensitive and even frightening.

¹ The full title is A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace, and yes, I am the author.

² I hope this doesn’t seem sexist. I actually think it is a cute-looking book.

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