I was in Annapolis, Maryland when it happened, barely 30 miles away. A gunman on a rampage at Washington Navy Yard, shooting at anyone in sight. I watched CNN’s coverage for most of the morning, feeling a much smaller rage of my own. I could not begin to understand the workings of the mind in the shooter. People were dying because of his madness while others ran for their lives. The aftermath: “another mass killing.”

Rage, or anger run amok, is becoming more and more reality of our times. The threat of terrorism is unleashed rage. Meanwhile, road rage outbursts make headlines more often than not; sports fans rage as well; and rage is often at the core of domestic violence. Unfortunately, rage is rarely recognized until it too late.

Anger can always be managed; it needs to be handled as it happens; it needs to be taken to where it belongs. When it is dealt with appropriately, usually simply by talking it out, it is disarmed and diffused. Anger is not madness; it is part of being human and can be used positively to deal with what goes wrong along the way. When recognized and managed properly, anger can be self-protective against fear and perceived threats. Healthy anger is rich with an adrenalin that can help to fix what needs fixing, especially in relationships. But choices need to and can be made.

Rage may be a disease with symptoms, but it is not contagious. Rage is anger unnamed and unexpressed, building inside, incrementally, until exploding, often into tragedy. Rage itself is beyond choice, though many choices are made as it builds toward the madness. Detecting the madness, though, is almost impossible for even one’s closest friends, since rage wears many masks until it makes itself known. 

What happened in Washington is becoming all too familiar. Rage connives while walking unnoticed among its ultimate victims. Rage when it erupts is madness screaming against itself while blindly lashing out at anyone in its way. Rage is unfocused anger upon anger, claiming a sick empowerment. And most often, innocents are its victims.  

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Washington, there are lessons to be learned. Most of them, however, leave even more questions than answers. The senseless loss of life tears into the families of those killed but also into our nation’s consciousness.