Musings of the Day
Hear this read aloud
I was never one to show anger. It didn’t mean I wasn’t angry, just that being angry was unacceptable in my family and not tolerated as a legitimate emotion. My father even went so far as to tell me that I didn’t feel what I felt. He said those words to me. “You are not angry.” “You do not feel what you feel.” I was enraged!
Anger was not something I was comfortable with as an adult either. I did all I could to avoid feeling it or being in the presence of it. My life was organized around not eliciting it in others. When my parents were angry it was more the feeling of a cold war in our house. There was no shouting or throwing things. It was an icy rejection, a look of absolute daggers to my heart, that told me how they felt. That was something to be avoided at all cost in every relationship I had going forward.
Fast forward to adulthood and low and behold I found myself in a marriage to a very angry man who had no trouble showing it or inflicting it on others. I sidestepped it and avoided it, but it infected my life completely. I lost myself in it, in the fear of what it might mean. Instead of getting angry at the abuse, I swallowed it. Instead of being enraged at how I was treated I told myself the same words he said to me, that it was my fault. I believed that about myself from the time I was a child. I was the cause of my parents’ anger. I was simply bad so I deserved to be treated that way.
My point is this. Being angry for the sake of being angry is not a healthy way to express emotion. But there are times when anger, even rage, are absolutely called for. Its what I call “Sacred Anger.” It comes from a true justification for being enraged. True injustice. Abuse. Abandonment. It is a healthy expression when we see something that is not right. I don’t say that as an excuse for violence. I say that as a justification for anger at wrong doing on a such a scale that it warrants retaliation in some way.
It took me most of my life to get angry at the things that happened to me. I was enraged, but held it so deep inside that it became illness. I couldn’t put it where it belonged. Now that I can, there are people who don’t like to hear it. They don’t want the truth. Because sometimes the truth is so ugly that it seems like you must be making it up. But I’m not. I know what happened to me and I also know now that it wasn’t my fault. I am angry now, at who I should have been angry at all those years ago. Not myself. I did nothing to warrant the abuse I got.
One thing about anger is that it doesn’t have to infect your life. At least that’s my experience so far. I got angry when I remembered the events of my past and allowed myself to feel the impact of them, the loss and heartbreak of it all. Then I moved on. Until I was asked to bring it all up again and when I did, I was once again dismissed as making it all up and getting too emotional.
This is the other type of sacred anger, the anger I now feel when someone questions my integrity. When someone tells me that what I know to be true is not true. When someone disrespects me and treats me as if they are superior in some way. That deserves my anger. And I don’t say this lightly as an excuse for bad behavior. This is where I have drawn a line in the sand in terms of how I will allow others to treat me. But this also comes with consequences because not everyone is aware enough to recognize their own behavior or the attitudes they carry. For those of us who have done extensive inner work, have met our demons, forgiven ourselves for past mistakes, forgiven our abusers, and suffered great loss as a result of it all, we know what we know. We have found ourselves in the process and no one will threaten that again. No one gets to treat us badly again.
Sacred anger feels good. It feels right. And I have felt it recently in a way I haven’t felt it in years. I will no longer harm myself with an emotion that belongs elsewhere. And that doesn’t mean that I am simply getting “emotional” as some might think. It means I am standing for myself, having my own back. Perhaps, if more of us felt this type of anger for those who are being treated poorly, including our earth and the animals that inhabit it with us, then more would be done to shift the behavior that is causing destruction and pain. It is outrageous that there is abuse on this earth. It is enraging to me that humans treat one another with such contempt and prejudice. And it is a cause for sacred anger, because sacred anger can be a motivator. It can move us to action in a way that nothing else can.