Mild mannered retired cleric that I am, I have come to understand how much I am driven by anger. In my case it comes out in passive-aggressive stances that strive against thoughtless, disengaged or institutionalised incursions that thwart my altruistic efforts and directions. I have asked myself on more than one occasion whether my attraction to some of the more prophetic justice themes of ministry have been a kind of release valve for a personal pathology that reaches back into my early childhood. My resistance to more overt expressions of anger may be due to anxiety about the potency of its force. This I understand, for my base experience can best be described as anxiety, (the Enneagram’s head centre of “existential dissonance.”) The integrative journey for me is to the body centre where the gut stance of “carnal hunger” (often expressed as an orientation to anger) resides.
All of this in response to a sobering, yet resonating, quote from Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown:
Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice.
Most of us are mixed bags full of mixed motives. This, naturally, calls for a haiku:
Let justice roll down
Anger cries out for right action
Mercy points the way.