This morning in our congregation Rev. Meredith Garmon is speaking about anger and of it’s natural place in our lives as we work with it to build peace in the beloved community. Anger is part of “hard wiring” in the basic primal emotional groups of emotions: mad, glad, sad, and afraid. To be human, is to respond in anger. Immediately however, signals of anger shoot up from our more primitive brain that responds with “fight or fright” to our cognitive centers and we begin to tell stories of why we are angry. Behind every anger response then is a “should.” We can be mad at our selves for what we should have done, mad at others for what they did or didn’t do, and underneath all of this, mad at existence for putting us in this awful pickle of being human and suffering all that we do as humans – loss, aging, death, pain, etc. In these “shoulds” then we have a chance to connect to life-giving needs, and from that to mourning, celebration in gratitude, and making specific requests as we move from victim hood to contributing to ourselves and the neighborhood. .
For example this happened to me this morning.
I opened the front page of the Gainesville Sun and there was a sticker saying “vote yes on Amendment 1” which is the amendment that would take away anti-discrimination protections from gay, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. The claim is that we need this amendment to keep men out of women’s restrooms. I had a surge of anger that came from shoulds: The Sun shouldn’t run this advertisement when they are against Amendment 1. People shouldn’t be fearful and prejudiced, and shouldn’t misrepresent the issues, etc. Translating this anger into needs I see that I long for equality, freedom, clarity, inclusiveness and understanding. Just writing these needs I feel the anger shift to empathy for the human species and a shift from “fight or fright/flight” to wanting to engage in the issue with compassion and with perseverance. If I stay in the shoulds I might flea with a plea on my tongue, “mend this world,” or might shift to thinking that those who hold different views from mine merit any less of my compassionate presence. I have faith that my compassionate presence and engagement with life will yield greater results than responding to the anger stimulus without consciously choosing what my actions and words might be. I choose peace.
Anger is a plea to please pay attention to needs, and when we do, we offer peace to ourselves and the world.