In my last post, I began to look at the question: How am I (and you) contributing to injustice, conflict and war? We considered how our desires within, often pull us toward flight or fight. And how both carry risks that can implicate us in the injustice. Flight can deny a valid desire for justice. And fight usually coupled with revenge, ends up with the victim becoming a perpetrator of injustice themselves. Today, I want to consider how we experience anger as a result of wounding from injustice or another cause. And how that often moves us toward vengeance and violence in our hearts.
Anger is the emotion that we experience when the evil (the absence or opposite of the good we desire) is visited upon us (Thomas Aquinas). This is an emotion we will usually experience in the midst of and after wounding experiences.
The anger might range from feelings of annoyance and irritation, because someone cut you off in traffic or in a conversation; to feeling frustrated or resentful with being blocked or unsupported in your goal; to disgust at how a person /group treats others; to rage and hostility towards someone who has personally violated you. And so on.
How do I find myself typically responding to these various forms of the emotion of anger?
The emotion of anger – like all other emotions – doesn’t have a moral value, but my response to the anger does. And typically – if I don’t process it well – it will lead me toward vengeance and violence in some form, toward the other who has wounded me. The ‘other’ might be a person or it might be a whole group /culture /nation, which the person represents.
I may or may not act out on it, through my behaviour or outward responses, because of social, cultural or religious inhibitions. And because I fear the disapproval of others or the consequences (perhaps even legal) of doing so.
But no one can stop me from fantasizing or imagining the vengeance I would like to take and the violence I would like to inflict on the other. This can range from wishing failure, downfall, loss of reputation or some other ‘evil’ in the person’s life, to imagining yourself or someone else physically hurting or even killing the person and many things in between. You might find yourself ‘happy’ or gloating when such ‘evils’ do happen to the person and rationalising that they deserve the ‘bad karma’. I become a slave to the emotion of anger, when I let it control me and lead me into various forms of vengeance and violence in my heart.
We have all experienced this violence within ourselves, because we have all experienced wounding. And it usually ‘leaks’ out, when there is an opportunity to gossip and say something negative about the person in conversations. Or rejoice with others that ‘they’ got what was coming to them.
To recognise and take responsibility for our inner violence is one of the hardest things we must do. And yet, if I can’t deal with my own personal violence, how can I expect to deal with the violence of nations?
My heart was full of unacknowledged anger and violence. It’s been a long journey for me, to work through a lot of that with God’s help, which has come through many people -starting with my wife. And I’m not done. But I’m in a better place of being aware of what’s going on in my heart and my responses.
I want to be more and more free from the control of anger and violence in my heart. And then, I can also be a better channel of justice, peace, healing and reconciliation in communities and in our world.
Would you like to join me in this journey of greater freedom from anger and violence in our hearts?
Credit: Image by Wendy CORNIQUET from Pixabay