I may not be the most qualified to speak on the topic of anger. Though I am well-versed in the costs of bottling it up. I could probably buy a small Russian yacht with all the money I spent on cocaine in my twenties and therapy in later decades. Avoiding conflict is one of my specialties: “None of that unpleasantness, now,” as my mother would say. My older brother and sister seemed to relish rolling in the unpleasantness, while I cowered wide-eyed behind the couch. And you never knew when my alcoholic father would blow. So I learned to hide out.
Fury at Injustice
It’s a lifelong challenge for me. But there is one exception: I have always raged at injustice. It’s why I chose a career in environmental protection, to speak out and fight for the defenseless. At first that meant animals and trees and vague visions of future generations, but when this privileged young white woman learned about the heavy costs of environmental degradation on poor people and communities of color, my rage knew no bounds. Which may be why I march around the streets of D.C. and wave signs and yell at the top of my lungs from time to time. That’s my therapy now.
Interesting that my rage only seems to grow as I age. No mellowing out or going gently into that good night for this aging hippie. I mean, shouldn’t things be getting better by now?? We know about climate change and its disproportionate impacts on marginalized people, we know about police rage and violence, we know about the ownership of politicians by the NRA and multibillion-dollar corporations, we know about systemic racial injustice in housing, healthcare, education, land use, the justice system, pollution exposure — well, everything.
And then comes the rebirth of authoritarianism, not just “over there” but right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Even for those who find it hard to do “unpleasantness,” how can you not rage right now, watching yet another tragic, senseless slaughter caused by a narcissistic strongman and his pandering cronies?
And now, corporate-backed American politicians are using Putin’s murderous rampage to call for more drilling, mining, and carbon-dioxide spewing in the name of “freedom,” when any person with a brain (and a heart) can see that solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources could free us from foreign energy sources for good?! Great God!
Don’t Just Rage, Do Something!
Speaking of God (see how I did that?), it’s the start of Lent, as I mentioned in my last post. What about trying a Lenten practice of feeling and expressing anger at injustice in a healthy way? I find that much of my anger comes from feeling powerless. What’s breaking your heart and raising your blood pressure these days?
You’re smart. You’re creative. Find one useful thing you can do about it. Write a letter to a decision-maker. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Call in to a news show. Get your neighbors together (in a COVID-safe way, of course) to watch a video about an issue that gets your ire up. Gather a few friends and have a “honk and wave” on the street corner, holding signs about racism, the climate crisis, Ukraine, your passion. You are a co-creator of this world with God — get out there and generate some beautiful holy rage!
“God of Holy Rage,
Too often we fear that to allow for anger is to become less like You. Let us meet the God of the prophets. You, who tells the truth. You, who holds fury at injustice. Help us to remember that You, in embodied anger, flipped the temple tables at the site of injustice and exclusion.
In a world where the powerful terrorize the marginalized — exploit people and land — would You help us to become faithful discerners of when to calm and when to rouse? Rejecting that anger which leads to bitterness or hatred of another, yet tapping into a righteous rage when that which you’ve created is under abuse and neglect. The dignity of creation demands our emotions. Make ours a beautiful rage.”
Cole Arthur Riley