The definitions seem to be changing, what is or isn’t acceptable.
Do you have clarity?
Even if you disagree with the moral code your parents or teachers or the society of your childhood and young adulthood tried to instill in you, I am willing to bet that you have strong feelings about what is or is not “acceptable.”
- Should people drive after four alcoholic drinks?
- Should people treat strangers with respect?
- Should you expect a large company to act in the best interests of its employees?
- Should you support the president of the United States because of the title and the responsibilities he has accepted?
- Should you hold the door open for a woman?
How do you react to these questions? Do some trigger bigger feelings than others?
We shift and change over time, and we aren’t all the same. Questions like these help reveal our values, and if you discussed it with a friend (and listened closely) you would likely discover that you each have different ideas about how to answer the question, even if those differences are subtle.
In many cases, questions like these trigger one emotion over any other —
We feel angry when our sense of right and wrong (or of fairness) is offended.
We want things to be fair. We want things to be done right. And when they aren’t, we get angry.
But we are not always willing to feel anger, or to accept it in others.
Should you feel angry?
Should you feel and express anger about what is (or was) happening in our political and social environment?
How about this? Should your mother feel angry with you (for that which she usually feels angry with you)?
Should your child feel angry with you (for that which your child usually feels angry)?
What about another driver experiencing you on the road get angry?
Most of us feel pretty justified when we ourselves feel anger. We’re less comfortable when someone else is directing the anger at us.
But tell me if this rings true: Sometimes when you feel anger, you’re not comfortable with it.
You’d rather mush it down. Squish it into the mayonnaise jar in your stomach and force the lid on. Screw it on tight, no matter what the consequences to your health.
Why do you accept some of your anger and completely reject other experiences?
Here’s my guess:
You don’t want to do damage, and if you can’t make everything right (right now), then it just isn’t worth it.
Does that feel familiar?
Man, can I relate!
I have a family member (bet you have one, too) whose political ideas are so different from mine that I’ve decided that I’ll just never go there. Just considering the possibility of engaging him in “dialogue” (such as it is), right away I can feel my stomach tightening up. My heart rate starts to pick up. My breathing is more shallow. My vision gets just a touch narrower, like my peripheral vision is just going to take a break until this is all over.
Could it be worthwhile for me to go ahead and have a conversation? OF COURSE NOT! I’ve learned that this “conversation” is going to go nowhere.
It’s a powerful feeling. But I admit I laugh at this, too.
I have learned (in the past) that this conversation will (in the future) go nowhere. Look at me, the amazing Kreskin. I can now predict the future.
I laugh because I know humans can’t predict the future, but man, my stomach TOTALLY CAN. That tightness in my stomach is the feeling of the sucker punch from my future self, looking back and saying, “Seriously? This is not worth it. If you do it anyway I am going to hit you in the stomach so hard….”
Should I feel this anger and frustration?
Trick question. I DO feel this anger and frustration. I’m feeling it in anticipation of something that I’ve decided will not happen. I am feeling it in response to a reality I
cannot have decided not to accept.
My upbringing tells me that I should try to squish it down. Let it go. Try to ignore it or control it.
What about yours? Were you raised to tell yourself “Just don’t.”
Okay. Maybe they were right about some of it. I really don’t think it will help anything for me to go toe-to-toe with my politically-inclined family member. But that does not mean my anger has no place nor that it should be tamped down.
The anger itself is fuel. Fuel to power action. And if I’m going to power action, I want my action to make a difference.
Anger is information. It tells you that something important to you is on the line.
These days, we need action to be more than just active. It needs to make a difference. We need to stand up for our values when they are being threatened. My anger can fuel me to lock arms with others who feel the same, whose values land similarly to my own. Going toe-to-toe with my family member is a non-starter, but joining with others? That makes waves.
On November 27, 1978, a former police officer whose political aspirations were being frustrated shot and killed the first gay elected official in the United States, Harvey Milk. When 30,000 LGBT folks and allies joined in an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall, folk singer Holly Near composed “Song for Harvey Milk,” which has since been renamed “We are a gentle, angry people”–the first line of the song. It has since been recast for many different social justice causes.
Gentle, angry people. I’m willing to bet that describes you much of the time.
I know it describes me.
As gentle, angry people, we need to find ways to focus our anger in ways that make a difference.
I coach gentle, angry people to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with courage, humor, and compassion. Here is my commitment to you: I will focus my energy in the service of helping you to be more effective. Helping you to make a difference. Helping you to focus.
Please tell me what you think by leaving a comment below!