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Lessons about anger

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this, and so many things have happened in the space of that four or five weeks. I’ve had a lot of emotions that I’ve been trying to chase down, figure out, and name so that I can deal with them. One of the biggest challenges has been my anger.

Anger. I’m not really used to being angry. I don’t do it very much…usually I’m more “frustrated” or “p-o’d” than actually angry. Anger for me is when something is so deeply upsetting and unjust and I feel powerless to change it…when something is presenting itself as a lost cause because it is just that big and horrifying and deeply disturbing. This is hard for me because usually when I’m angry it gets to be an extended amount of time, where each day I’m consumed with worry and upset and feel paralyzed about what to do.

My good friend Sam helped me tease out one of the aspects of my angry times. He asked me how I deal with other people’s anger (avoidance, shyness, hiding, self-blaming, etc.) and how other people deal with my anger. This last part made me step back…what did he mean, how did other people deal with my anger?!

I realized that they never get a chance to deal with it, usually, because I keep it inside myself and don’t acknowledge it as a valid feeling that I am allowed to experience. I am too concerned with being “nice,” “ladylike,” “kind,” “a good person,” etc. I had never before acknowledged that it was ok for me to be angry, it was ok for me to have a feeling that was negative, that expressed my reaction to something in a way that was not beautiful or “proper” or whatever. I had never before realized that not allowing myself to be angry was part of the way that I experienced patriarchal standards for women–always being the kinder, gentler sex manifested itself into me hating myself every time I was upset about something…that’s messed up.

(of course there are other dimensions to my lack of acknowledging and validating my own feelings, but this was a big and important moment for me)

So, really, the question is for me: how do I channel my anger into creating/supporting something positive? How do I not “get over” my anger, but utilize it to be something that galvanizes me to action concerning the things that I am upset about?

But also, how do I distinguish the times when it’s ok to be angry and it’s ok to not be happy, when I probably just need to sit and be and understand those emotions better? I don’t always need to move on from these states of less-beautiful feelings…sometimes I need to sit with it and inhabit it so that I can live with it.

Now I see that I’ve spent a minute telling you how I feel about anger, how I deal with it, what it means to me…but I haven’t told you about the reasons why I get angry. Lately it’s been a combination of personal and political reasons (and let’s be real, those two things are intertwined all the time).

Ferguson. Race. Hatred. Bigotry. Prejudice. Iraq. ISIS. Kurdish refugees. Somalia. Domestic violence. Sudan. Religious fundamentalism. Feeling alone. Friends being on the other side of the world in dangerous places. Reading the news. Family not understanding my needs. Relationship emotions being out of whack. Churches that perpetuate violent words and actions. News media. Environmental pollution. Extractive industries. Addiction.

These are all things that I have been spending a lot of time thinking and praying and talking with people about (God bless my poor housemates who share their listening skills and patience with me constantly). And these are all things that more people than just me are not only angry about, but also working on–actively and consistently, with much bravery, strength, love and perseverance.

I have to trust, as well, that God is working through the head and heart and hands of folks all over the world to place us all where we need to be so that we can spread the love and justice and peace of Christ, so that we can shine the lights in the darkness.

Don’t let anger blow your candle out. Let it shine.


She/her. Michigan born and raised, Nashville-loving, Seattle-dwelling. Progressive Baptist pastor. Affiliated with Alliance of Baptists and Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America~Bautistas por la Paz.

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