This week we have a guest post from author Lisa Brunette. Read her full bio below.
“Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.” – Zora Neale Hurston
We’re often taught that anger is a shameful emotion. It’s something that should be managed, or better yet, squelched. As a society, we look down on or pity those who can’t control it, who allow their facade to crumble, who “lose it” so that everyone can see the emotions roiling inside them. We judge them for this perceived weakness.
Especially in the spiritual community, we also tend to canonize people who don’t show their anger. Many of us aim for the spiritual ideal of the calm, serene, monkish enlightened one who reacts to every situation with never-ending grace and acceptance. We imagine Jesus this way, for his “turn the other cheek” teaching, and the list goes on: Buddha, Mother Teresa, Ghandi. You could even add Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lennon to the list.
But this is exactly the wrong approach for many of us who’ve been marginalized and oppressed through sexism, racism, homophobia, or other negative patterns of behavior. Especially for trauma and abuse victims, denying anger might add another layer of damage before the healing can even begin.
The Hurston quote above captures this beautifully. Imagine a victim of domestic abuse, afraid for her life and unable to express anger about her beatings, for fear of incurring more of the same. It’s often a struggle for law enforcement to get the victim to stand up to her abuser by filing charges against him. Victims are often unable to leave. They might also suffer in terms of their own self-worth, blame themselves for their predicament, or feel protective of their abuser because of any familial or love ties.
But victims must tap into their own anger in order to dispel the fear that traps them in victimhood.
In terms of social change, anger also plays a key role. It’s anger that gives someone the courage to stand up to injustice or to fight for what’s right. Anger can be a galvanizing force for good in the world. It sparks protests, outcries, campaigns, letters to the editor, electoral and legal victories, new laws. All of these things can lead to a better society for all.
Martin Luther King marched on Washington, called racists out for their prejudice, and continues to inflame hearts to this day with his spirited, angry speeches. Note in the video below how he shouts, “I’m not fearing any man!”
Of course, like other powerful forces, anger can consume. An abuse victim’s healing isn’t served if she becomes obsessed with revenge. And the negative pattern only continues if she becomes an abuser herself.
Likewise, a protest can turn violent, causing more problems than it solves. Laws meant to protect can also be used to harm.
So grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear. But then replace the anger with something that feeds your spirit.
As Chris says here on the blog, this begins with knowing how to say no. But it ends in understanding when to say yes.
Lisa Brunette is the author of a forthcoming book of poetry on this topic called Broom of Anger. Her published work includes the Dreamslippers mystery series and short stories based on her childhood as a military brat. Read more here: www.catintheflock.com