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How Some Cope

In many neighborhoods, the grocery store gets a little busier than usual before a snowstorm. The lines may get a little longer, and the beeps of the item scanner may come a little more urgently as people stock up on necessities.

Even with this heightened sense of urgency, however, most don’t go to the store expecting threats of violence.

So, when a woman threatened to stab Monique Mapp at an East Flatbush supermarket, she was caught entirely off guard.

Mapp had been waiting on a single line which fed two different cash registers. Whoever was in front would head to the first register that became available. When her turn came up, Mapp approached the register. That’s when she was approached by a taller, older woman coming from the side with a shopping cart. The woman accused her of cutting, and when Mapp tried to explain that there was only one line, the woman became even more agitated.

“She said, ‘I should just stab you,’” said Mapp.

For Mapp, the tension of the situation was exceeded only by its absurdity. Mapp, who had so few items that she was carrying them without the need of a basket, couldn’t believe that this woman would even consider stabbing her over such a “trivial thing.”

“I was so nervous—my heart started to race really fast,” said Mapp. She had to tell herself, “‘Do not say anything else. Just let her say whatever she wants to say—I will not look at her. I will not give her any reason to be more upset.’”

A Gallup poll found higher levels of stress, sadness, anger and worry in 2020 than ever before at any point in the organization’s global tracking.

Whether victim or observer, an encounter with aggressive or angry behavior can catch anyone off guard. Experts say remaining calm is key to ensuring that a precarious situation doesn’t escalate. Anger management expert Ryan Martin’s advice in Psychology Today was, “Stay calm, stay safe and don’t make it worse.”

Mapp, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, credits her faith in God with helping to keep her cool. “Jehovah helped me to remain calm and not respond in a way that would be mean or stir up more anger,” she said.

She added that she immediately recalled a scripture that helped to balance her emotional reaction to the situation. Fortunately, her composed demeanor led to a peaceful resolution to the potential conflict.

Mapp realized the benefits of remaining calm in stressful situations. “At the end of the day, you feel good that you didn’t retaliate.”

Frontline workers, airline personnel, educators and others can attest to a trend of increased aggression, even becoming targets.

While working at a grocery store in Palmdale, California, Isaac Virgil said he’s watched shoppers becoming increasingly aggressive, especially when items have quantity limits in place. “I think people have just gotten more anxious and less patient,” said Virgil. “They seem to only care about themselves and what they need.”

He recalls customers grabbing at packages of toilet paper and attempting to yank them out of the arms of fellow shoppers.

Virgil defuses such situations by remembering the Bible principles his parents have instilled in him. “I’m always polite,” said Virgil. “I try and remember that sometimes the customer can just be having a bad day.”

For fire inspector Roy La Grone of Grand Rapids, Michigan, such volatile situations have posed a particular challenge. “I’ve had a hard time controlling my anger since I was a kid,” he acknowledged.

After a four-month medical leave that ended in early 2021, he was anxious to return to work. On his first day back, he made a simple suggestion to the owner of the factory he was inspecting. In a split second, the man erupted into a verbal rant riddled with profanities.

To La Grone, the walk of 150 feet to reach the exit door felt like an eternity. The business owner followed him, yelling the entire way, while the office staff stared in stunned disbelief.

“I did everything that I could to try to calm him down,” said La Grone. “I didn’t overreact because I’ve learned that that type of behavior does not help the situation.”

Over the years, La Grone said he has worked hard to minimize his temper. He said that resources from jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, were particularly useful in dealing with stress, controlling his anger and remaining calm rather than becoming provoked.

“Imitating the good examples of others and applying Bible principles has helped me to remain calm when under pressure,” he said.

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