Someone I love, who knows me well, told me recently that I have a lot of anger. I was stunned. I am non-violent, unaggressive, not at all an angry person. Certainly there are many things in the world which deserve anger ~ injustice, cruelty, unchecked greed and shameful stewardship. But how else should one react to those things? Being impotent to make any appreciable difference is frustrating, but it doesn’t consume me. True, the reminders are frequent, graphic, and varied, but knowing every day that someone is committing unconscionable acts of destruction and suffering among defenseless beings which I am powerless to stop doesn’t tear at my soul until I just can’t bear one more atrocity.
Or maybe it totally does. Isn’t the toxic cocktail of loss, impotence, and hopelessness the catalyst for rage and violent yet generally ineffective civil uprisings? If it does that amongst packs of underemployed young men, what is it doing in me? It’s not venting in arson and looting and and pipe bombs and shouting at government houses. And if it’s not venting, it must be festering. I write letters to legislators and send money to causes, and while every little bit helps, it usually feels like teacup vs. tide. Perhaps it’s true; there are so many things to make me angry, the world is just keeping me angry. And I didn’t even see it happening. That’s no way to live, either with smoldering rage or in ignorance of one’s own condition.
So that’s the first step. Never having been through 12, I don’t know what comes next. Letting go? How do I stop being angry about horrible situations which continue merrily along without giving up altogether, without ceasing to care, without just shutting down my soul? How do I pick it up, use it, and set it aside? Where is the “right” in righteous anger?