On the way to church yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker that said “if you aren’t outraged you aren’t paying attention.” No other stickers on the car, no indication if he was outraged from the left or from the right. This being Texas you’d assume from the right, but this was in Denton, so who knows.

Regardless of which side of the political / religious / environmental / whatever debates you’re on, being outraged is a lousy way to go through life.

First of all, it’s not healthy. Rage is an extreme form of stress, and stress makes the heart work harder and increases blood pressure. That’s good if you’re in a fight or flight situation, but for the vast majority of us the vast majority of the time, all it accomplishes is raising your chances of an eventual heart attack or stroke.

Being outraged doesn’t attract uninterested or uncommitted folks to your side. Oh sure, your passion may attract a few people who already think like you do, but all that does is grow the choir you’re preaching to.

It’s sadly true that negative campaigning and identity politics is an effective way to win elections, but how well is that working for actually governing and changing society – for either side? Bush wasn’t a Nazi and Obama isn’t a socialist. When you give your opponents such radical labels, it makes cooperating with them for the common good far more difficult. And once you turn the “they’re evil, EVIL I tell you!” knob all the way up, what do you have left when you encounter someone who’s far worse?

Anger and its extreme form, rage, have a legitimate moral purpose. That purpose is to move us to compassion. The purpose of compassion is to move us to action. If we don’t move from anger to compassion, we’re hurting ourselves. And if we don’t move from compassion to action, we’re not doing any tangible good.

So skip the outrage and its feelings of moral superiority. If you don’t like the way things are, DO something to make them better. We’ll all be better off.

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About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06208142626285495635 Robin Edgar

    :And once you turn the “they’re evil, EVIL I tell you!” knob all the way up, what do you have left when you encounter someone who’s far worse?

    The Robin Edgar Sucks blog perhaps? :-)