Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Everything in Moderation Including Anger

There is a lot of discussion in the aftermath of Charleston about forgiveness.  The relatives of the victims immediately forgave the perpetrator, which was most impressive.  My friend, Bill Ayres, wrote a sharp piece on forgiveness.  Much of the arguments here tend to that anger is destructive to those who have been victimized, and that it is better to let go then let anger poison oneself.  Indeed, the classic saying (by Buddha or not):

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

There is much to that.  I am a big fan of this particular view:

But I want to push back just a bit.  Alcohol can be a poison if too much is imbibed, but is not so bad in moderation.  How about the same for anger?  Might anger be useful?  Might it be a potentially positive force?  I am thinking of political mobilization (not that I have read much of that literature)--that being outraged and offended gets people off of their couches and out in the streets.

I have not seen Inside Out yet, but I think I am comfortable with the idea that emotions can co-exist. That Anger might co-exist with Love, so that one can be motivated to engage in peaceful dissent, maybe?  There are other ways to motivate action, and anger can, of course, lead to the dark side, but passion can be directed towards turning out the vote, for getting folks to ignore the costs of collective action and ignore the logic of free-riding.

Maybe this is all rationalization since I suck at letting go.  I am trying to let go of a key long held resent since the subject has reflected and admitted much remorse even if the behavior has not entirely changed.  I am reaching the point of being able to forgive and let go the anger towards this person.  On the other hand, I still feel anger and will refuse to forgive former colleagues who continue to act in the same old ways.  For me, I guess, forgiveness requires that there is learning and remorse... (and I am not alone) which means I am not able to forgive the murderer of nine people last week.  So, perhaps I can only think of focusing my anger in positive ways since I cannot let go.

Just like the U.S. is a work in progress, so am I...

1 comment:

Brad said...

This post really needed a Joe Strummer quote, Steve.