Even though it’s been five years and I’m incredibly happy, I’m still sometimes quite pissed at my second wife for divorcing me. In a righteous anger sort of way. After this year’s event marking the fiftieth anniversary of MLK Jr.’s death, an observer noted how “angry” some of the black speakers seemed in contrast to white presenters’ passion. Jesus, the epitome of what it means to be human, famously got ticked off with people in power who took advantage of others by overturning tables and driving animals out of the Temple courts. All of these and more have been rattling around in my head lately, so I thought it’d be interesting to process and explore what to do with anger via a blog.
I was listening to a podcast interview of author and speaker Austin Channing Brown on “Newsworthy with Norsworthy” the other day. The host, Luke, said how a friend of his went to the aforementioned MLK Jr. occasion, and noticed the “difference” between some of the white and black speakers. In listening this occurred to me: Different people, especially those of varying ethnicities, have diverse ways of expressing the exact SAME thing; meaning it’s quite possible a white person like me would think a black person was speaking “angrily” and a white “passionately”, when truthfully they were tapping into the same emotion, just expressing it their own way.
Austin and Luke went on to also point out this interesting tidbit: While in America it’s still okay to be mad at terrorists (at a minimum) for 9/11, many say black people are off-base for being upset about slavery, Jim Crow Laws that lasted deep into the 1900s, and the continuing systemic bias against African Americans in our culture.
One of the ways I discern the Spirit is speaking to me, giving me a Message to be changed by, and possibly share, is when I hear or read the same and/or a related idea from multiple sources in a short period of time. As fate would have it, not much later I listened to therapist and author Dan Allender’s podcast, wherein this BRILLIANT man noted how epigenetics (the study of how our traumas, practices, food, environment, etc. CHANGES our genes in ways we PASS ON to our children, grandchildren, etc.) literally shows trauma is passed on for at least two to four generations. My point here is even IF some of America’s black people haven’t been racially wronged in any significant ways, there is STILL trauma from past MAJOR harm in their blood. It’s science.
With all this and more in mind, here’s the question I have for us: What do we do with our anger, when love is the point of life? As I ponder this, four pillars seem helpful for building an “answer” on:
- Anger belongs, isn’t inherently bad, and shouldn’t be repressed or shamed.
- Anger, like other emotions is energy.
- We HAVE emotions, but we are NOT our emotions.
- Love is the foundation and point.
Anger belongs, isn’t inherently bad, and it’s NOT good to repress or shame it. Now, there are a wide variety of angers, spanning from petty to fleeting to righteous. As I think about it, I have a hunch we know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate anger. There’s the righteous feeling of wrath that wells up from deep within us at unfairness, hurt, harm, oppression, injustice, and the like. Conversely, there’s a more petty type of rage, which seems to be more in our heads (egos?). This version easily blinds us and leads us to be the harmer, hurter, oppressor, etc. The thing is, I think regardless of whether our anger is justified or silly, it’s SUPER important for us to acknowledge it and healthily express it, because repressing our emotions poisons our spirits.
Now, I’m definitely NOT saying we should yell, scream, rant, and rave whenever we feel like it. Instead, I’m pointing out emotions are energy, and energy is made to move and flow. What I mean here is even when my anger is unrighteous or silly, the most healthy thing is still for me to let it out via a sigh, a run, a workout, a silly noise, a journal entry, etc. On the other hand, when we’re justifiable ticked about abuse, racism, unjust treatment, slavery, sexism, etc., it’s good for us to harness that energy, like Jesus did, and use it to combat the hurtful system and overturn the tables of oppression via nonviolent uses of our voices and energies.
I think in our efforts to appropriately channel the energy of anger to make our lives and the world better, it’s absolutely VITAL to remember we HAVE emotions, but we are NOT our emotions. Our anger doesn’t define us. Our sadness doesn’t identify us. Our happiness doesn’t name us. The more I’ve been able to distance my SELF from my emotions, while letting them exist and be expressed, the more healthy those expressions and myself have become. I have a hunch the same would be true for you too.
I read a meditation from Mastin Kipp, the founder of the Daily Love, the same week as the podcasts, and in it he shared something I haven’t practiced much yet. That said, I intend to and think it will be helpful here. I’d put it like this: The more we can not only detach our selves from our emotions, but also NOT need to even name or categorize them, just letting them be and move through us, the calmer and more centered and joyful we become.
The most helpful practice I come back to time and again is love, the giving of oneself for thriving and flourishing of all. So, I’d say anger belongs most especially in response to the betrayal of love, such as instances of abuse, exclusion, oppression, hurt, harm, etc. What is more, lest we become the wrong we seek to right, I think the expression of our “anger” must be founded on, bathed in, and seek to produce more love. What do you think?
Grace and peace,