Anger demands certainty.
If you want to fly into a rage and shout about everything that is wrong, you have to be very sure of yourself.
You need to believe that you are the one who understands the situation and everyone else has it wrong. You need to know where blame should be laid, who the failure belongs to, who screwed up, who made a mess, who the enemy is.
Doubt and anger are not compatible. If you don’t exactly know what happened, if there is some area of crossed purposes or difficult trade offs, being furious will not help the situation.
“You cannot hate someone if you know their story.” Once you understand the hard choices someone faced, have an awareness of the context of their life, see their struggle and their humanity, it is difficult to rage at them. You have to be callous or very reactionary to approach them with only anger, even if their choices upset you.
Building an identity on anger is building an identity on the fundamental perfection of your beliefs. You are right and they are wrong and that is all there is to it. Until they give up their corrupting ways, they deserve whatever fierce lashing that you can dole out.
One of the most common rationalizations for anger is “Well, they started it. If they hadn’t come in ferocious anger, I wouldn’t have had to respond with my own pure and absolute rage.” Your anger is their fault, is all about those horrible people who do horrible things.
Does anger confronting anger make anything other than a war?
As a transperson, I know there are people in this country who are very angry with people like me. They see my emergence as trans in society as massively destructive, a horrible affront to their traditions, beliefs and sacrifices. They believe that just by being visible I am endangering their children and the society their ancestors have fought so hard to purify.
These angry people feel entitled to hate people like me because they are absolutely certain that I am corrupt, sinful and wicked. They defend purity by trying to purge people like me from their sight and from their environs.
I have to decide how I respond to these people. I completely disagree with their understanding of what makes a healthy society, with their bullying and oppressive tactics and with the arrogance of their certainty that they know evil and it is not them.
But does that mean I should be angry at them, blaming them and targeting them as the true evil in the world? Do I have the luxury of my own certainty that I know the absolute truth and these people should be flamed, pounded and driven into compliance with what I know to be politically correct?
If I respond to them with anger then I become the same as they are. I commit to the war and we both are ready to lose.
If I come with the compassion, understanding and grace that I would want them to approach me with, I take the higher ground. I stand for better choices, turning the other cheek and applying the golden rule in what used to be called a good Christian stance.
My anger is my responsibility. I have the choice of how to respond, and I respond with the sadness, doubt, curiosity and compassion that might just allow me to build bridges with other allies.
Without anger, I don’t have to demand that people respect and honour my anger and the righteous pain that undergirds it, don’t have to demand that others comply with my certain beliefs before we can find common ground.
Every chronically angry person comes from a position of certainty. The belief system that has become their identity makes its own logic. We have to stay angry to stay pure so any reduction in that anger is a betrayal of all that we hold dear. Our anger is our virtue, so anger itself becomes virtuous. Holding rage becomes the way we are a warrior for our cause, even if it never attains us the goals we hold of bringing others to understand our position.
A preacher railed against the homosexual sinners from the street outside the pride event that featured TBB. He changed no minds, opened no hearts, but the video of his raging rant got many positive comments from others who need to believe that the very act of charging the demons is holy in itself.
The same kind of behaviour has come from radicals who feel the need to shout down and drive away anyone who doesn’t prioritize their own anger at an oppressive society. Demanding purity is an end in itself and if that means they are reduced to a clique of only passionate believers, well, they are the more righteous for it.
I know how much I have been hurt. I know how much pain and abuse is threaded through my history. I know how easy it would have been to declare everyone who injured me as toxic, raging at them and demanding that they comply with what I am absolutely sure to be true.
I also know that to do that would have not let me hold them in the love and caring which allowed us to create change together.
Holding a wall of anger based in some kind of fundamental certainty would have trapped me in my own self built cage, allowing my angry imp to blame others, blame the system for everything that is wrong, demanding that I stay angry or be a sucker, blind to their stupid and vile ways.
Angry demands certainty. Love demands doubt and the willing to give others the benefit of that doubt.
Do I like it when fundamentalists are angry at me and people like me, being so certain of their own beliefs that they can create barriers to my fundamental human rights? No. That sucks.
But I don’t like it when their anger gets me trapped in my own anger, either. I need to be who I feel my creator wants me to be, need to take my identity and my actions from a view of righteousness that starts with humility, compassion, service and vulnerability.
I need change in the world. I just know that buying into a war some fundamentalist wants to start is not the way to create a better, more considerate, more loving community for all of us.
The golden rule tells me that.