Sometimes, the world seems like a messed up place. When considering matters of injustice, political manipulation, or religious exploitation, there’s a lot to be angry about.
Many of us have been simmering in our frustration and rage for the last couple of years. So what do we do with our anger?
A few thoughts…
You have the right to feel whatever you feel. That should go without saying, but we sometimes need reminders about these things. There is nothing wrong with being angry. While disfunctional families and toxic religion might teach us otherwise, there is nothing sinful about being angry. If you are pissed off, say something. Cry angry tears to a trusted friend. Vent to your spiritual director. Tell your therapist. Scream at God if you need to. Resist the urge to sweep those feelings under the rug. Bypassing our emotions only magnifies our pain.
Trace it Back
When we’re angry, it can be easy to get so focused on the emotions we’re feeling that we lose sight of the true source of our anger. Sit with your anger. Let it teach you. Ask it where it’s really coming from. More often than not, we’re not actually angry about what we think we’re angry about. Look beyond the emotions you’re feeling and let your anger guide you to the true source of that pain. When I’m angry with another person, I am generally seeing something from my own past at work in their lives. The person I’m mad at is simply a reminder of who I used to be. The people I get the most frustrated with are the people who are standing in the place I was five or ten years ago. I’m embarrassed to have ever acting in those ways or to have held those beliefs. In short, I’m not really mad at them. I’m mad at me.
Let It Go
This is certainly the hardest step in this process for me. In the words of Rich Mullins, “Surrender don’t come natural to me.” Letting go of our anger requires admitting that we are powerless to change anyone but ourselves. Most people aren’t in a place within themselves that they can listen to their anger long enough to learn its’ lessons and come to a point of healing. Only when we have found peace within can we truly surrender an infuriating situation to the universe, trusting that God really will use everything in our lives for our good. Destructive cycles have to end somewhere and it might as well be with us. Refusing to get even, harbor bitterness, or exact revenge breaks the circle of pain. Making a decision to stop punishing the offending party for their sins against us is the point where we can stop seeing the situation exclusively from our own painful perspective and start seeing it from a higher plane.
Follow It Home
Michael Bernard Beckwith says, “Pain pushes until vision pulls.” Once we’ve allowed ourselves to fully experience the frustration and anguish of our anger and surrendered our right to get even, we can follow our purpose to the real WHY of our anger. What is it that this situation is teaching us about what’s wrong in the world? This is where we get to make the positive choice regarding what we’re going to do about the systematic issue represented by the triggering offense. Is the world too politically divided? Then we can stop allowing ourselves to scapegoat people on the other side. Is toxic religion hurting people you love? Then resolve to be a consistent source of love and support in their lives. Did someone cut you off in traffic? Then let that remind you to be considerate of other drivers on the road. After all, it doesn’t make any sense to stay mad at the guy who cut you off when you’re going 60 mph in a 45 mph zone.
When we follow our pain to our purpose, it allows us to stop taking things personally and see the situation (and the broader injustice) from a universal perspective. It’s one thing to be angry at toxic religion that is making your life harder. It’s another thing entirely to see it on a global scale and do whatever you can to change it for the common good. We all have a role in righting the wrongs of the universe, but we enter into alignment with our purpose when we take on injustice on behalf of others rather than motivated solely by our own inconvenience or discomfort.