Over the next few months, we’ll be issuing a series of articles that we hope will provide some guideposts during these times of uncertainty. Consider this your pocket guide to navigating what researchers call cognitive dissonance, a fancy term for that sinking feeling you get when a close friend posts something you disagree with in every fiber of your being. While our initial tendency is to unfriend them, clap back or shrink away and never speak our true beliefs, we hope to offer you a different lens through which to view the responses you encounter. Hopefully, the result can lead to productive exchanges that catalyze greater unity.
The first installment is a brief primer on the role of anger in the process of restoration.
Anger is a necessary stop on the quest for healing. I first learned this concept in a clinical training that studied Dan Allender’s work. I’ve now seen it play out in process hundreds of times. Being angry – intensely, furiously angry- means we are finally willing to move out of the waiting place called Denial. It also means that we are seeing our true worth. As we allow ourselves to fully face the ways we’ve been hurt and how those wounds have twisted our trajectory, both as we respond to pain and avoid anticipated pain, we get MAD! There is a righteous anger that says, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. I was made for more than this!” That’s the same sentiment that was behind Jesus’s tears of frustration as he wept over the loss of his friend Lazarus and the grief of his closest companions in John 11. When people try to move on without facing their anger, the false peace rarely holds. It’s like putting a bandaid on an infected wound.
A word of caution: we all know someone who’s gotten stuck in anger. You call a friend and all she can talk about is that person who betrayed her years ago. A family member’s every communication drips with bitterness toward an unfair world. Anger cannot be our permanent place of residence if we are truly committed to reconciliation. Yet, it’s natural that many of us prefer a state of anger – it feels powerful! We feel so justified in our judgments of right and wrong, and in times like these, we can find plenty of places where all the voices validate our point of view. For those of us who consider ourselves Christians, we simply aren’t called to a life of self-protection. Some of the most challenging places in the Bible are those that point us to an uncommon love – one that goes beyond loving those who agree with us.
So, here’s some questions that may help you self-reflect and assess your relationship with anger:
- Do I minimize my own hurt or the hurt of others to avoid feeling upset?
- Do I believe anger can be productive, or do I consider it something to be avoided? Why or Why not?
- What is my internal narrative about the people with whom I disagree? In what boxes or categories do I commonly place people? (i.e. stupid, lazy, entitled, selfish, greedy, ignorant)
- Am I stuck in a perpetual state of self-protection?
Next month we’ll begin exploring the doorway to compassion. Hope you can join us!