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Accepting Anger…

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‘Anger is only a natural reaction; one of the mind’s ways of reacting to things that it perceives to be wrong.’

I am angry at the idea of acceptance always over anger.

I was recently recommended the book, 1000 Names for Joy, as one that I would appreciate as a reflection of my own life-philosophy, and so I purchased and have tried to read it.

It had much to recommend it.  One light’s (Byron Katie’s) responses to the Tao Te Ching, it is based on the Stephen Mitchell translation and is accompanied by his comments.  A linguist, I have long respected him as a translator (primarily of the Tao and of Rilke) and, of my three translations of the Way, it is his that I carried around with me for years.

And yet, I have been unable to read this reflection on it.

Partly because it keeps saying to just accept and be at peace with whatever is.  That it is somehow un-enlightened to feel anger.

And this thought seems to be supported by most respected sources.  (As I looked for a quote to open this post, Einstein, Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, the Buddha… all warned against anger.)

And yet, I can’t help feeling that anger can not only be justified, but can sometimes be highly beneficial.

Sometimes things suck.  They are unfair and unjust and unpleasant.  They have no reason that we can see, nor cause that we are responsible for.  It is a normal response to feel anger when these things occur.

And it minimizes an individual’s experience to tell them that their emotions are not okay, and that they should not be feeling what they are feeling.  - We each have a right to our emotions, all of them.

It is the response to anger that we should be concerned with.  Anger can certainly be destructive, causing physical, emotional and/or psychological damage.  But anger can also be an effective motivator.

If all persons had just accepted chattel slavery as ‘the way it was’, this system would still exist in our nation today.  But there were those who did not accept it.  There were those who were angered by the horrors of it.  And so they took action to change it.

If all persons who saw harm just accepted it as ‘the way it is’, many more vulnerable people, animals, environments… would be left without any protectors or defenders.  Yet, there are those who do not accept it.  There are those who are angered by exploitation and harm.  And so they take action to change it.

Such is the value of anger.  Certainly, we must always recognize/accept the place in which we currently stand.  But, given this understanding, it is from that point that we can choose which direction to move in, what action to take, what changes to effect in the world.

And so, I would like us to stop shaming anger and silencing it with acceptance.  Let us treat it gently as a response to harm and welcome it as the stimulus for change.

~ Guru M ~

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