When I was a pastor I often heard other pastors give testimonies how God delivered them from anger. I recently read a blog written by a metaphysical teacher speaking of his ability to overcome anger. Then of course I hear couples look at me and tell me with pride how they never fight and never get angry with one another. If I’m being honest, I don’t think these people are enlightened. I actually feel sorry for them.
In an episode of “Iconoclasts” Dave Chappelle and Dr Maya Angelou were featured. In the hour long conversation they spoke briefly on anger.
Angelou: If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone, or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry.Chappelle: But what do you do?Angelou: Now mind you, there’s a difference. You must not be bitter.Chappelle: That’s hard.Angelou: Now let me show you why. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger, yes, you write it, you paint it, you dance it, you march it, you vote it, you do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.
In the book, “The Gift of Anger” by Arun Gandhi, we learn that Mahatma Gandhi was often angry and he said it was a good thing. Martin Luther King expressed anger at injustice often. We can go back to St Francis of Assisi and see anger used as a beginning point for great change. We can go further back to Jesus and Buddha and see the holy anger that has led to great peace for so many.
I remember when I was losing my faith in Christianity in the worst year of my life. I was numb. I was driving a taxi in the harsh nights and even harsher Chicago winters. I saw death in a decaying city. There was an imbalance between justice and harm. There was a disconnect in what I was taught the order of the universe was and what the reality I was seeing was. Another woman raped. Another child beaten. Another person without a home sleeping on a bench. In the numbness I was dying inside. I was also becoming apathetic to the suffering around me and the suffering within me.
In Buddhist terms, I had to get angry with the Dukkha to realize the truth of Samudāya. It was only in my anger that I could reach past the numb state of being I was in and yearn for Nirodha to seek Magga. Now in plain English. I had to get mad about suffering to see the attachment we have to suffering. It was in that anger that I broke free of the acceptance and attachment to see that there could be a road out of it and embark on that road. In relationships it is healthy to have anger and to argue. When we get angry and argue with one another, that is when we put all our junk on the table as a couple and deal with it. This is where the learning and the growing really happen for a couple. This is true with any deep relationship. This is not just about a partner, this is about our relationships with our children, our friends, and even co workers. We need that anger to bring out the truth that needs to be on the table for understanding to happen.
Anger is a lot like pain in many ways. Pain lets us know that something is wrong with the body that needs to be addressed. Many people mask the pain with pain killers never dealing with the root cause of the pain. The injury gets worse when this happens. All we are is numb. We live in a time where opioid addiction is numbing more and more every day.
The same is true with anger. It lets us know that something is wrong with our spirit, our family, our neighbors, and even our very planet. We can mask the anger and become numb to it. We can deny the symptoms that tells us something is wrong. We will become numb. If we become numb we will not deal with the cause of the pain and the problem will become worse. This is not an enlightened path.
If great men and women had not listened to their anger, so many things that needed to happen would not have happened. Without anger we would not have had abolition, suffrage, civil rights, gay marriage, water protectors and so many other things that are essential to our beauty and our future.
Pirates rose because there was something wrong. It is from the pirate codes told to us in the Republic of Pirates that we have the very ideas of freedom and democracy interwoven into the US Constitution that so many of us reading Aquarius today enjoy. Anger gave us freedom from inequality and enslavement time and time again.
Anger does have a darker side, however. Anger can lead to abuse, mass murder, racism, and so many other things that hurt us as opposed to healing us. The difference goes back to that quote by Dr. Maya Angelou that I touched on earlier. They allowed the anger to become bitterness. They did not write, dance and speak of their anger. They internalized and they lashed out like rabid animals harming others. I would contend that is not holy anger. That is bitterness from festering wounds covered up with people trying to numb and attach to the pain.
Today we are seeing the most beautiful expressions of anger and the most ugly repercussions of bitterness. The #meetoo movement, Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March are reaching for light. Men and women of conviction who have been silenced are doing exactly as Dr. Maya Angelou prescribed to humanity. They are speaking. They are not being silent. They are vocal in their anger and as uncomfortable as anger and pain is, it is leading to change.
As for bitterness. We are seeing racism on the rise. In 2017 a woman was killed on American soil standing up to Nazis. In Uganda men are being executed because they dare to love another man. Engineers and doctors who have lived here all their lives are systematically being removed from this nation and being deported and torn from their families. This is not just. This is not beautiful. This is an act of bitterness.
My grandmother used to tell me that when you are shoved in the dirt and covered in manure that is a seed planted and ready to grow into something beautiful. But for that seed to sprout from the ground it has to fight it’s way through the dirt and the manure and reach for the light. The only way that is going to happen is when you get angry enough to grow and become something beautiful.
So when you meditate tonight, meditate on what hurts and makes you angry. When you are done doing that; write it, paint it, dance it, march it, vote it, and talk it. Never stop talking it.