What Are You So Mad About?

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”
Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late

(note: writing/researching this post put me in a negative funk. that is the power of anger.)

Research suggests that we are more compassionate with others than we are with ourselves (Dr. Kristin Neff says so). If that’s the case, then we have a serious problem. If you look at any article online you will see that people are primed and ready to fight. We struggle to give anyone the benefit of the doubt or to extend compassion to the people we love the most.

For example, I picked an article on dropping pizza prices to review comments. A topic I thought we could all agree is a great thing, right? Nope. Here are some of the comments I found associated with the article:

Since neither of those qualify as “Pizza” anywhere where real food is available, they should change this headline.

I noted that you have to buy an overpriced side to get one deal.  You have to pay a couple bucks for a drink that costs them a few pennies to get the deal.  Or rather the rip off.

Bet on this…as the price goes down, so does the quality.  And whatever happened to one of the essential pizza ingredients, anchovies. Can’t find a pizza with anchovies anywhere.

If we can’t get behind deals on pizza, is there any hope for us? Seriously, we are so combative and defensive that we pick fights about anything and everything. I made the mistake of reading comments on a political article posted on social media. Apparently the gloves are off online. People cuss each other out, call each other names, make vile comments about groups of people. To what end?

You have to walk around in that skin holding onto those awful and angry thoughts. Those thoughts and feelings will rot you from the inside out. I’ve seen it happen. People come to me wondering why they are so lonely and sad. Then, I hear them call their partner an idiot. They say their son is a worthless piece of garbage. And, the world is going to hell (in a handbag).

Are you really asking me why you’re miserable? Because it sounds like you just answered your own question. 

I think the outrage around things like pizza prices stems from peoples’ unhappiness with their own lives. I think that a lot of people are unhappy at home with their family and they extend that anger and resentment to larger systems. There is a negative energy created when sitting around talking about “idiot republicans” or “idiot democrats.” For a moment, one may feel superior, like they somehow figured it all out. Of course, it is short lived because no one has any of this figured out.

We think it’s acceptable to call our partners “the old ball and chain” or “the nag” or “the worthless idiot.” I suppose if you have no problem calling the people you love names why would you have a problem calling someone online an asshole.

Naturally, I’d be lying if I said I did not participate in angry talk. But, I know it is ultimately a reflection of my own well-being as opposed to a constructive means to an end. The moment I express anger the other person gets defensive and stops listening. This turns the conversation into an argument and leads nowhere.

There is definitely a time and place for anger. If you are witness to the abuse of people or animals, this should make you angry. But, that anger needs to be channeled into action or it turns to rage. The lovely Una Henry once helped me understand the difference between anger and rage. She said anger is how anyone would react in the face of injustice and rage is what happens when the injustice continues without end. For many oppressed groups, the rage is justified. But, rage is like anger in that it will destroy you.

I suppose I’m asking you to consider what you are honestly so mad about. Is it the quality of pizza? Is it traffic? Is it the weather? Is politics? Or, is it that your life is not where you want it to be and it is easier to rage against pizza and politics than to examine your misery and do something about it?  Is it a helplessness? If so, maybe reach out for support or try to do something to right the injustices. Or, risk letting hate, anger, and rage ravage you and your life. It’s your choice.

“When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget. We think that we are the only one that suffers, and the other person is our oppressor. This is enough to make anger arise, and to strengthen our desire to punish. We want to punish the other person because we suffer. Then, we have anger in us; we have violence in us, just as they do. When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately. So understanding the other is understanding yourself, and understanding yourself is understanding the other person. Everything must begin with you.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh



2 thoughts on “What Are You So Mad About?

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