Daniel A. Dougan

...is glad you're here but a little
concerned that you haven't found a
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Anger is a helpless feeling

Posted by danieladougan on June 25, 2012 at 12:55 AM

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." -- Ephesians 4:31, NIV

When writing a blog entry about anger, I deliberately sought out a quote from the Bible, a book (or, rather, a collection of books) that normally triggers angry feelings in me. The goal was to try to find something positive in there despite my instincts to the contrary. Amid all of the verses about God unleashing his anger -- and there were many of them -- it was nice to find some good advice about human anger. I suppose the Bible is not all bad.

You see, I've been feeling tremendous amounts of anger lately directed at a variety of sources.

When I found out that a jury convicted Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child sex abuse, I reacted the way most people probably did: seething at a man who used his influence to take advantage of so many trusting children, including his own adopted son. When I found out that a jury convicted financier Tim Durham and his business associates on fraud charges, I had similar feelings: perhaps gleefully imagining the horrible things that are sure to befall all of these men in prison. They surely deserve it, right?

But this feeling accomplishes nothing. Revenge does not in any way compensate a victim or undo the damage that these men did. Instead, it perpetuates the tragedy and causes more pain. It might feel satisfying for a moment, but once the moment passes, you are still left with the memory of terrible tragedies for which there is no possible resolution or restitution.

What about political or ideological anger that motivates us to fight for a particular cause? Surely that is more productive, right?

It is certainly a step up from revenge on the grand scheme of things, but that is somewhat like ascending into a higher circle of hell from a lower circle. You are still (metaphorically) on fire. And you're probably so distracted by your emotions that your effectiveness wains. Nothing changes, you get angrier, and the downward spiral continues.

I've been taught before that "anger is a secondary emotion." The lesson, of course, is that in order to address it in a healthy way, we must identify what emotion is behind the angry cloak.

For me, I believe the true emotion is helplessness. There is absolutely nothing I can do to help the children who were assaulted by Jerry Sandusky. There is nothing I can do to compensate the people who lost their savings as a result of Tim Durham and his associates. That much is obvious, and that is what makes me really foam at the mouth.

What was less obvious is that there is also very little I can do affect the way the larger world works. If the Supreme Court strikes down the health care reform law and returns the United States to the status quo, I will be deeply disappointed and, yes, angry, but I have to realize that these are decisions being made by people whom I have never met and likely do not care what I think anyway. I can vote, I can make small campaign contributions and I can share my views with others, but I ultimately cannot control the outcome in any meaningful way by myself. It is what it is.

I have found some solace in the Tao Te Ching when I experience these emotions. Maybe I should practice it a little more so that I can be more centered.

Therefore the Master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything.

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go.

She has but doesn't possess,

acts but doesn't expect.

When her work is done, she forgets it.

That is why it lasts forever.

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1 Comment

Reply Donna Dougan
10:45 AM on June 25, 2012 
Leviticus 19:18 "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
Romans 12:19--"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it its written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."
No human is more forgiving than you, Dan. Worry about your own happiness. Speak up about the creeps, but don't let them get you so down. "Shake the dust" from your feet & go on. They will have to learn their lessons the hard way, but don't stop sticking up for the victums. Anger, worry, and grudges are things we do to hurt ourselves. (I should know.) Start your days thanking God for the things that are good & giving Him the rest. Then He with give you rest. (The italicize wouldn't work.)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains?
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalms 121

I love you, son.