Talk on anger, resentment and rage 6/28/13
The more I give talks on anger and resentment, the more deeply I understand my own lack of wisdom in dealing with this issue. Each person has his or her own journey with this aspect of being human. For some it can be the central point of reference in their lives. It can shape their relationships most of all. It is also what drives many to seek a deeper relationship with God and all traditions seek to help their followers deal with this often painful aspect in their lives. My writing on this subject, tells more about how I deal with this in my own life, knowing that others have wounds that come from different experiences, often deeper and more destructive than I can even imagine. So anything I write will have some serious limitations in how I deal with this important aspect for many who seek to deepen their spiritual lives.
St. Paul talks about a thorn in his side that the Lord allows in order to keep him humble. This is not a very comforting concept for me. It implies something that worked on him all of his life. A problem which irritated him no end and caused him inner suffering as well as having to deal with no doubt, his failures and inability on his own to overcome it. I believe that most people can relate to this very unpleasant reality about life.
For me anger could be my thorn, or one of them that I deal with. Though my other problems, most likely stem from this one deeply felt ache in my side. A constant source of annoyance that is cyclic in nature; in other words unending. The intensity of it varies as I age changing in subtle ways, slowly over the years. Often in spite of my self and my slowness in responding to graces calling for deeper trust in life’s process. The call to bring this inner turmoil and pain on an ever deeper level of intimacy to the Lord, an act of trust and faith, which is central to the Christian path.
There are many causes or roots to anger and of course not everyone experiences it in the same way….though the pain is often deep and can cause ever deeper wounds towards self as well as others. Cycles can be self destructive or can slowly lead towards healing and at times be a mixture of both.
There can be closure for anger. Some sort of reconciliation can occur. For the majority however closure cannot be accomplished, and it is a life long ongoing process trying to live with it. “Deal with me”, our anger can often scream at us, but often the ‘dealing’ can be problematic. For part of the struggle is not to become the sort of person that tries to deal with their pain by taking it out on those who are in the vicinity, who in fact have nothing to do with anything in regard to this issue. It is called the ‘shot-gun’ approach to anger. This only leads to greater suffering; for this release is less effective the more it is used.
On the cross Jesus prayed to the Father to forgive those who betrayed, denied, bore false witness, tortured, mocked and killed him. This is a hard pill to swallow since our sense of justice demands some sort of restitution. I can talk and write about love and forgiveness until I am blue in the face, but when I am struggling with my own inner ‘demons’, this is very difficult or even impossible, at least on an emotional level.
I have found that my desire for it to end is a major source of suffering for me. It will not go away, but how I relate to it, this ‘thorn’ is all important. For me, my anger goes way back, which is true for many and all the other instances in life that cause anger and resentment, have it’s roots in this one instant in time that caused the inner rift to happen in the first place. Perhaps it is the time when many of us first woke up…. our fall out of Eden so to speak. A time when we found our selves naked, vulnerable, defenseless; with no one around to help or save us from whatever happened; aloneness and isolation experienced for the first time. Young children are of course not rational, so an unintentional act can actually be the cause of this inner turmoil. I believe it was for me. Big or small, the incident can still leave an imprint that has to be dealt with for a lifetime.
The desire for revenge, while understandable, only gives power to whatever it was that hurt us; took something away from us…. that committed an injustice that can never be addressed. Or even if it was, may do little good. This is the kind of anger that can be a major point in our spiritual lives, this bringing before the Lord our pain, our inability at times to forgive, the images that if feared can torture us. These are what the Spirituality of dealing with anger entails. It strips away the often pious ways that people talk about love and forgiveness, when it fact it is often a blood and guts kind of thing. We cry out for grace, for mercy on ourselves and when we begin to understand how our pain and anger can lead to causing the same kind of suffering to fall on others….then and only then can we begin to understand others and why they perhaps do the things they do. Our faith journey is constantly pushing us deeper understanding, compassion, not only for ourselves but for others as well.
Love of self, that the Lord commands us to and for good reason, for it can be the hardest thing to accomplish for many, is the first step. Only then, when we understand how we are loved by the Lord, lifted up, treated with compassion and understanding, can we begin to allow healing and the unclenching of our fist, the opening of our hearts to the new life that Christ calls us to. The death to self is not about doing things, or becoming perfect, no, it is about allowing the healing of the Lord in our lives, the letting go of all that imprisons us, and allowing the free flowing of grace into our hearts. Easy yes (?);…...well of course the answer is no, perhaps impossible if we keep ourselves enclosed in unending cycle of anger and for some seeking revenge on those who did this evil, or towards just about anyone who gets in our way.