Why do we think it's so bad to be angry?
A few weeks ago, I shared my anger regarding a young man who was standing on the corner with a sign that said "You deserve Rape" on one side and "Whore" on the other. I was angered that as I was just trying to make a left turn to go grocery shopping I was suddenly confronted with a huge sign that said I deserved to be raped.
I was also angry that a woman who was also just trying to walk to class was suddenly visually assaulted with a peer holding a sign sending her the same message. I was angry that parents would have to explain the "what is rape, Mommy" to their kids so I FBed about it.
I didn't expect it to make this guy's sign disappear by posting about it but instead of quietly putting my anger to the side and saying he doesn't deserve my time...I decided that indeed he did. I received a lot of feedback and it was all helpful for me to process my unexpected emotions but my anger wasn't consuming me or causing me torment. It was anger. I stated it and I had no ill will against him however not everyone interpreted it that way.
I have practiced Lovingkindness and Forgiveness for several years now but it really has only been a recent thing that I can honestly say that my heart is a forgiving heart. And when I say recent...I mean like last month.
I forgave all of my sexual predators years ago. I've forgiven myself for many of my mistakes.
However, the person that I allowed to hold my heart captive has been my mother and even though I have been trying to forgive her since I was a child...it wasn't until I fully embraced my anger regarding the experiences that I was able to get through it.
I had to sit with the rage, the disappointment and sadness first and then to heal...I had to confront it and her directly and I did. Not with violent words or an amped up heart rate but with honesty and love. A shitload of love and deep breaths.
It was extremely terrifying for me because as a child my defensive mechanism was to make excuses for her and blame myself but it wasn't until I looked at her with compassion and simultaneously hated her actions that I was able to grieve and move on.
So...I have no fear of anger but it seems to be the big bad wolf of the yoga and "enlightened" crowd in general.
My perception is that if I am not quoting peace, love and rainbows then there must be something broken in my heart but to me I see it as a freedom from resistance because it's going to be there.
I recently met with an incredibly sweet and kind woman who met me for a consult at work to discuss ways she could be more present in her life. I asked her in what way did she want to practice and she talked about the usual desire to notice the beauty around her, to eat with more awareness and do things more slowly which was all good but then she said she didn't want to get angry at her husband when he won't help her around the house. She didn't want to be angry that he said its her job to cook and clean even though they are both retired. She didn't want him to think she was a mean person.
Well...needless to say I told her there was NOTHING wrong about feeling disappointment, unappreciated and angry about being disrespected.
She looked at me as if my face had suddenly morphed into the head of Yosemite Sam.
How could her meditation teacher be telling her she can be angry and it's ok?
That's not what she wanted.
She didn't want to experience anger.
It's unpleasant. Or is it?
After her mouth closed and she took a breath I explained that what she was really looking for was tools to navigate that anger in a way that isn't so reactive and emotionally charged and by all means...I get it.
I work on it EVERY DAMN DAY.
Once she understood that anger isn't a bad thing she actually seemed relieved.
Now, Is it going to fix her issues with her mysogenistic husband? I have no idea.
Anger and sadness are inevitable but we all seem to want to push it away OR wallow in it.
I guess we do the same with joy and love. We either run from our feelings or cling to them just as we do people, things, sensations and thoughts.
We want things to be concrete and clear but in order to have clarity about anything you have to pause and have the patience to consider both sides of the coin first. We want joy but we must also experience sorrow, isn't that correct? If we are angry or sad it just means we care passionately about something or atleast this is a lesson I have taken from a dear friend and unintended mentor.
(Speaking about you, MG).
I don't think expressing anger in a nonviolent way is anything to be afraid of. I don't think it lessens my desire for a world filled with understanding and compassion and I don't think it negates my daily practice of Lovingkindness.
In fact, when I share my anger and outrage about something repulsive, I find that it inspires me to be better person.
My heart doesn't harden when I FB status that someone is being a jerk. Their behavior was awful.
I also understand that 'the jerk' will always suffer more because they must live with themselves and with hearts that are lacking a relief from their own suffering.
As a friend responded on the day that I expressed so much sadness and anger on that funny public forum "hurt people, hurt people".
It's not an excuse but just some insight so that my heart doesn't lash out in a violent way to perpetuate the cycle.
Of course, the real work begins with taking that anger and using its inspiration to create change and inspire others not to wish violence on someone else.
We "deserve love".
That boy on the street standing with his sign deserves love. He doesn't have it right now.
I don't think I am the one that will change his heart but I can teach my son that when he's angry nobody needs to pay for it.
He can be angry but find a way to learn from it, to be with disappointment and rejection so he doesn't grow up thinking that others deserve pain but not to hide from his anger because it's going to be there and it's not a bad thing.