"In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
I've too often sat down and written a letter in anger. I've too often sent that letter and when the results didn't meet my expectations I questioned the usefulness of anger. I've even written here, in The Temple, with anger in my heart and I have chastised myself for it. And then I remember a little story I once read. It goes a little something like this:
"Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.'"
That old story, which comes from the book of Matthew, Chapter 21, has been stuck in my mind since I was old enough to understand the Holy Trinity. Even as a youngster I was asking questions like: Why would Jesus, the "Son of God", get angry? Why would he vandalize a temple? Of course I've heard all manner of explanation for this passage. Here's one I've never heard: Jesus, Son of God, Savoir, and Christ, gets angry too.
He was human (even Christians can't deny that, it's part of their faith). So was Buddha. So was every Saint and holy and enlightened and "together" person we may have looked up to at some point in our lives. They all, at some point, got angry at something. They all, at some point, acted on that anger.
People like Adolph Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Joseph Stalin, and the like, we've labeled them "evil". Evil people, as most in this society would agree, are also "angry" people. And angry people are capable of what? Evil! Right?
So what's the difference between Hitler's anger and Gandhi's?
Hitler had a socialized hatred for the Jews, too many insecurities to mention, and oh yeah, his mother was Jewish which, by traditional Jewish law, makes him a Jew. Can you imagine the cognitive dissonance he experienced all his life regarding this?!
Gandhi also had much to be angry about. His country was a subject of her Royal Majesty the Queen of England and had been for some time and he wanted to free India from the tyrannical rule of the British Empire. He was also deeply troubled by the religious differences within India, the violence, the caste system, etc.
Hitler choose not to reconcile his difference inside himself but instead pushed outwards in anger and attempted to change the world to more closely align itself with his twisted vision. Gandhi, on the other hand, took his anger and used it to create peace in his life and after doing so pushed to teach others how to take the same kinds of anger and transform them as he so often did with what we now know as Passive Resistance.
Anger can be a powerful ally but it can also be a poison. You can use it to destroy your world and everyone in it or you can use it to transform your world and everyone in it. Anger, when misunderstood and unbridled, can be one of the most blinding and egotistically satisfying emotions there is. On the other hand, anger can be an atomic force for positive change, a way that our inner spirit in wisdom can transform anger into change.
And then let the anger go.
So how has anger poisoned my life? And what have I done to turn anger into my ally?
Here are some things that really piss me off:
- Dishonesty (including "white lies").
- Physically or emotionally abusive people.
- People who do not take responsibility for their emotions and/or behavior.
- Being ignored or left high and dry, especially by those who profess to care about me.
Here's generally what I do about them:
- Assess the situation. Is this anger my responsibility? Is it something I can deal with on my own? Or is someone stepping on my feet? Can I do something to change the situation towards the positive? If the answers are "Yes and/or No", "Yes and/or No", "Yes", and "Yes", in that order, then I move on to #2.
- I separate my anger from other people's behavior as much as I'm able and then I confront said person or situation and share my views, thoughts, reactions, and what I believe can be done to bring about positive change.
- A decision must now be made. Does a change take place? Do others wish to find a win-win as I do? Or do they ignore the situation, lie, or walk away? If the former then a groundwork can be laid for positive change. If the latter, then there's little I can do but walk away until such time they are interested in creating a win-win for all involved.
That's not easy and I've had a lot of practice in the last five years. It's not easy separating my anger, my ego, from a situation. It's easier to say, "I want" and, "I need", and "This is the way I want things to be!"
Can you separate the two?
And what might you loose by choosing change over the status quo?
It's not easy confronting someone and saying, "Hey, you lied to me and it really hurt my feelings. Can we do something so that doesn't happen again?" Most people react poorly to confrontation and sadly, more than not would rather walk away from a friendship than take responsibility for their behavior and engage in a transformational conversion. So you can loose friends, lovers, the respect of co-workers, and even relatives, all because you're willing to rock the boat a little.
Hey, I never said this would be easy.
So what if I can't transform that anger, that karma, outside of myself? And what if my environment brings it up over and over again and it's too much for me to handle? And what if others involved have expressed no interest in sharing my interest in a positive change?
Then I walk away. I walk away so I can trasnform that anger in my heart, in my soul, and I allow myself to evolve into someone who is less angry, less judgmental, and less frustrated. I become a person who can simply accept things, no matter how frustrating they might have once been, as they are, yet at the same time accept the responsibility to change things when I can, when I choose to. And without anger.