‘Ducks don’t do anger. Ducks fight over a piece of bread and then they just swim away,’ says our dear friend Deepesh Faucheaux in our book, Be The Change.
There is a lot of anger flying around right now with the BP oil spill, the financial meltdown, and the continuing job crisis. But we needn’t let it stay in our system, as seen in Nelson Mandela’s response to President Bill Clinton, soon after Mandela’s release.
Clinton asked him if he wasn’t feeling really angry the day he walked away from 27 years in jail. “Surely,” Clinton said, “You must have felt some anger?” Mandela agreed that, yes, alongside the joy of being free, he had also felt great anger. “But,” he said, “I valued my freedom more, and I knew that if I expressed my anger I would still be a prisoner.”
For Mandela, as for all of us, getting angry is simply playing the same game and results show seen in the catchphrase, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.’ Yes, we have a right to be angry at being treated with disrespect, but retaliation just gets us into further negativity.
As Michael Beckwith writes in, Be the Change, “Rev James Lawson, who was a cohort of Dr. Martin Luther King, shared with me a moment when he and Dr. King were sitting in an auditorium and a man came up and said to Dr. King, ‘Are you MLK Jr.?’ When he said yes the man spat on him. Dr. King took a handkerchief, took the spittle off of his suit, and handed it back to the man saying, ‘I think this belongs to you.’ He didn’t hit the man, he didn’t cuss the man out, he didn’t say how dare you, he had this ability to just be in the moment.”
It’s not that anger is all wrong; it can be an effective expression of passion for justice and fairness, for basic rightness, for what is appropriate and humane. But anger can also be like a single match that can burn an entire forest, causing tremendous damage and hurt. It causes wars, leads to greed and self-deception. The fallout can be huge and, invariably, we have no control over the repercussions.
In its passion, anger pushes away, condemns, and makes everything wrong except itself. Our heart goes out of reach and we lose touch with our feelings. There is no compromise, no chance for dialogue—I am right and you are wrong. And yet we are the ones who suffer the most, particularly from the affects of the anger within our own minds, hearts and bodies.
Trying to eradicate anger is like trying to box with our own shadow: it doesn’t work. Getting rid of it implies either expressing it and creating emotional damage, denying its existence or repressing it, which just suppresses it until it erupts at a later time.
Making friends with anger is essential, but to do so we have to change the way we think and react. This is growing roses out of rotting compost, transforming fire into constructive action, using the passion but without the destruction.
We need to go beneath the anger to see what hurt, longing or fear is trying to make itself heard. There may be feelings of rejection, grief or loneliness, so if we repress anger or pretend it isn’t there then all these other feelings get repressed and ignored as well.
Anger is invariably a big cry for love as we have lost our connectedness with each other and are trying to find a way to reconnect. By naming and recognizing the many faces of anger, we can stay present with it as it arises, keeping the heart open, breathing, watching emotions come up and pass through.
We can watch as anger fills the mind and makes such a song and dance, and we can just keep breathing and watching as it goes on it’s merry way.
Photo thanks to Flickr: madhourse5’s photostream