Friday, November 3, 2017

One of those moments...



You ever have one of those moments?



You know the kind of moment where it feels like there’s a raging monster of anger and hate trying to escape your body? Where you are so angry you find yourself wanting to do things very much outside your normal behavior?

I had a very different post in mind for this month. One I’ve been researching and stewing over. But every time I tried to sit down and write it, I could't. I realized I needed to take a step back and really reflect on my reasoning behind it. I needed to know if it was the right thing to do, no matter how justified I felt in my actions.

Racism, bigotry, ignorance, prejudice, prejudgment is rampant in our society right now. We think we understand the seriousness of it, but I have to wonder if we really do. I think we sometimes forget that it is rampant not only in matters of color and culture, but also faith, political affiliation, locale, class… the list goes on and on. It often seems that we’ve become a society that instead of celebrating our differences and uniqueness as what brings beauty and color to this darkened world, we criticize, ostracize, demean, and do our best to break those who don’t believe or worship as we do, see the world as we do, vote as we do, live or speak as we do.

How often do we pause to remember what started the Holocaust?

Hitler killed not only Jews, but the handicapped, Jehovah’s witnesses, Muslims, and anyone who he felt did not live up to what he decreed “the perfect man”...

We might be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “I am not Hitler.” But could the actions taking place in the world around us, some of them our own, be much closer than we realize?

How often do we feel a surge of anger, the green hulking monster raging inside, and quickly jump on Facebook or Twitter and spew out our anger and frustration, or paint words on a piece of cardboard and stomp around in front of a building or home, or assassinate the character of someone without pausing to think about what we are doing and why? Are we saying what we are saying simply because we don’t like the fact that someone is different than we are, does things differently than we do, or maybe made a mistake out of ignorance? Are we truly justified in our words and behavior? And even if our anger is justified, are our actions? Have we become like the person/people/group we are angry toward—just in a different way? Do we pause to think about our own mistakes, and for the tiniest second see if we would extend an arm of mercy in the place of anger, the kind of mercy we would want someone to show us for our mistakes?

Just because we aren’t throwing those we disagree with into concentration camps, doesn’t mean our actions toward them are not going to leave lasting scars. Yes, they have hurt us, scarred us, but is giving them scars to match ours really the best way to deal with it? The way that is going to bring us what we are truly searching for—peace and healing?

As these thoughts went through my mind I began to seriously reflect on the post I had intended to write in relation to what I’ve come to learn about anger in my life.

Anger is like lighter fluid. Highly flammable. Extremely dangerous. BUT if I don’t create a spark, it will eventually evaporate and disappear, leaving nothing behind but a smell that quickly fades. 

If you want proof of the damage anger can do just turn on the news or read Facebook. Character assassination on Facebook seems to be a favorite pastime for many. Someone is angry at someone else (lighter fluid), sparks fly from their fingers as they angrily type out their frustration, a burst of flame shoots from the publish button as soon as its clicked. The flaming post soon ignites others, they add fuel with each comment and repost, and soon it’s a raging inferno of hate that breaks hearts and destroys lives—almost always including the person who let the first spark loose and those who added fuel to the fire.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the word ‘ass’ is included twice in the word assassination—especially as it relates to character assassination—first, for the way the person who screwed up feels, and the second, for the Jackass who thinks it’s their place to go online and make sure the ‘sinner’ pays for it.

I heard the phrase in a movie once, “I’m too busy minding my own business to care about someone else’s business.” Do you think if this were true, for even a quarter of the world’s population, Facebook would even exist?

Anger is always the secondary emotion, and if I'm not careful, I end up reacting to the second emotion and doing or saying things I later regret. It’s far, far better to wait until I am calm and able to take a step back and evaluate the real emotion behind the anger and then make a rational decision on how to act and deal with it in a healthy way.

Lasting scars... Burn scars never completely fade. It’s so important to make sure I act wisely in my anger not react without thought—I never want to be responsible for someone else’s scars.

My original post was going to be a collection of information I gathered after I read a book that made me angry. VERY angry. Green monster, fuming Hulk, break through walls kind of angry.

The post was going to be a gentle reproach (or at least what I felt was gentle). I wasn’t going to use names, nor was I going to do what I strongly desired to do soon after I finished reading the book (write a nasty review condemning him for his bigotry, prejudice, and prejudgment. Request one minute of his time just to shout in his face and throw his own words back at him. And possibly slaughter his name all over Facebook).

It took me weeks to calm down, to go to sleep at night without stewing over it. I did write a review, but it was after I had calmed down some. It was honest and written from my heart. I did give my opinion, but I did so with dignity and language that I wouldn’t be ashamed to let my grandmother read. At least I hope I did.

As I sat down to put together the collection of information, I realized that although I had believed I’d put the matter to rest and I could do this calmly, there was still enough simmering anger that what I had planned to write, although not as cruel as the above desires, and I had no intention of using the author’s name, it would still, in one shape or form, be an image of his bigotry. A reflection that although viewed from a different angle, had too many of the same flaws.

The harder I tried to put word to paper, the more I found myself reflecting on my feelings toward this author, and the more I realized I could not write the piece I originally planned, or I would risk rekindling my simmering anger and becoming another version of him—someone who wanted more than just to lay out the facts gathered, someone who wanted to convince anyone reading my post that I was right and he was wrong. The green monster would have shown his face in a different way, a sneakier, crueler way.

Instead I decided to look at it from a broader perspective, and in place of a post of laid out facts proving Mr. Unnamed wrong, I decided to do what I do. Write. Write through my feelings. Take you with me on the journey as I sought out the simmering sources of anger that refused to be snuffed out. I decided to be like a fireman who days after a wildfire, is still searching for those “hot spots” that can re-spark another fire if not eliminated.

Hopefully in the process I will find healing, and maybe help some of you find healing in your own “lighter fluid” situations. Maybe, just maybe, together we can start to change the world around us into people who pause before they hit “publish” or “comment”, think before they click “send”, and close their mouth long enough to rethink the words about to leave their mouths.

How am I going to deal with my anger (that I feel is highly justified) in a healthy way that doesn’t involve being a you-know-what towards the ignorant party all over Facebook, or writing a post that would only be a simmered down version of my anger?

I came up with these 4 questions to help me through the process:
  1. What was the issue that started it all (the lighter fluid)?
  2. What sparked the intense anger I felt and kept me from just letting the lighter fluid evaporate? 
  3. What was the first emotion, the real emotion I was avoiding by burying it beneath the flames?
  4.  What is the best resolution?

What was the issue that started it all?
He started his book with a plea to the reader to come to the platform he was about to lay out as an unbiased juror. He asked us to set aside preconceived ideas and prejudices and listen with an open mind to all the facts and then come to a conclusion. Yet, about halfway through the book he treated certain beliefs different than his own as blasé and unworthy of honest reflection. He became a hypocrite. He did exactly what he’d expressly urged his readers not to do. The way he wrote one particular section showed exactly his own preconceived idea and prejudice toward a belief system he did not understand. He became a bigot in his ignorance, as so many of us unintentionally do toward things we do not understand on first look.

What did I do about it? I sat down and started doing my own homework. I found the counters to his erroneous, baseless claims to assuage my frustration. I had the facts, but I still wanted to take those facts and shove them down his throat. Proof that the real issue had yet to be dealt with.

What sparked the anger and kept it going? Hypocrisy, ignorance, the fact that my faith is all too often the butt of jokes. The fact that many of my ancestors died for their beliefs, and for their right to believe. Which felt like he’d (albeit unintentionally) insulted me and my family, many of my friends, my ancestors, and countless others who believe as I do—and there was nothing I could do about it. Nor could I prevent thousands of other people from reading his book and possibly believing his flippant remarks without checking the facts for themselves because of the preconceived ideas that are part of our society…. Whew! Deep breath needed… Even writing it brings the anger back and if I don’t get to the heart of the issue, it will continue to fuel it. I can feel it growing within me right now.

What real emotion am I burying beneath the flames of anger?

POWERLESSNESS.

Ouch. It hurts to even write it. One of the most difficult things a victim of a serious crime has to deal with in the days, and/or years after the event is the feeling of powerlessness. The reminder that they were the victims of someone else using their agency to hurt them, emotionally, physically, sexually, mentally, and there was nothing they could do to prevent or stop it, and sometimes no matter what they try to do later they might not be able to prevent or stop them from hurting someone else.

Maybe I wasn’t a victim of a “serious” crime, as it wasn’t intended, but I was a victim of ignorant prejudice and bigotry. I didn’t realize that until just now. He may have felt like he was just saying what everyone else thinks, but he did not pause to think that there could be someone on the other side of the page who it would hurt. In his limited view, brought on by his own preconceived ideas and prejudices, he put ink to paper without due thought.

So, was my anger justified? Yes, I think it was. But does that make retaliation the best way to handle my anger? Will it bring me peace—what I honestly am looking for? 

I don’t think it will.

Was this guy as bad as Hitler? 

No. (Even if for a moment, I hated him as much as I hate Hitler.)

Did he write what he wrote to hurt me? To demean me? 

No. I don’t think that was what he intended.

To demean my particular faith? 

Maybe.

If he didn’t intend to hurt me, why did it hurt when he demeaned my faith?

Lightbulb… Because I am a product of my beliefs. They have molded me, shaped me, given me something to strive for, to try to become. They are behind every decision I make. Sometimes I don’t listen to them when I should. But they are always there with me reminding me of who I am, how I should see myself, and how I should see, love, and accept others. So, in short, whether he meant to demean me or not, he did, and all my family, ancestors, many of my friends, and thousands of others. And it hurts. And it frustrates me that I can do nothing about it without in one way or another mimicking his actions.

My resolution after this serious reflection:

Religious beliefs are matters of faith not facts.

What happens when we base our beliefs, our ideas of how the world works, on the supposed facts, conceptions and ideas of men—even the really smart ones? We end up believing the earth is flat and that the universe is going to one day shrink to nothing—until someone comes along and changes the “facts”. Science, our understanding of history and the future, changes every day as more and more is discovered or uncovered. Believing every scientific answer, or the ideas of “smart” people, as THE answer is kinda silly, because one day those beliefs will be tested as new evidence arises, and new ideas, and hypotheses, are introduced.

So, it really wouldn’t matter how many facts I laid out, how many brilliant ideas of really smart men and women I put on the table—in the end it would still be an act of faith to believe what I laid out, a choice to believe no matter the amount of evidence.

So, why do it? 

To prove my point. To wag my finger and say, “you’re wrong”. Both answers aren’t the right reasons. Because it will all come back to the choice to believe or not to believe my evidence—the exact injunction he had in the beginning of his book. I would be writing the same thing he wrote, just from a different point of view. And my anger toward him, would turn me into the hypocrite. 

Double ouch.

My post idea was fueled by anger and frustration. If the fuel had been passion for what I believe and the desire to write genuine, unbiased help for those seeking information, without any ulterior motives, maybe it would have worked out, maybe I would feel good about moving forward and publishing it, but right now I am not to that healthy place. I can’t write it.

I think I am finally beginning to understand the reasoning behind the words, “turn the other cheek”. If I am not careful I may become exactly what I am determined to fight against. Just because the view from my angle seems justified, does not mean it’s any different if I lash back.

Life, people, culture, religion, are like a giant piece of crystal. The same light shines upon it, but its the way the light passes through the unique multifaceted creation that makes it breathtaking. Everything looks different when viewed from different angles, from different perspectives, but that does not make it any less beautiful. 

Rather than curse or throw sticks at him, I can choose to change myself. I can choose to try harder not to make the same mistakes.

Rather than believe everyone must understand things from my angle and my perspective, or see through my eyes in order to see the right way, I can love the side of the crystal I can see, and allow others to do the same from where they are standing. I can choose not to be a bigot, not to prejudge, or base my opinions of things I don’t understand on the gossip all over social media or something I heard someone say.  Maybe one day I can take my research and put it to good use, but in the meantime, I’m okay if it stays a file on my computer.

I don’t need to slaughter his name on Facebook to find peace.

I don’t need to defend my faith to him or anyone else in order to find peace.

There is only one thing I need to do. Must do. I must make a choice whether to forgive this man or not. I cannot change him, I can only change myself. I want true peace, so I must choose to let go of the fuel. I must put the fire completely out.

I choose to forgive.

Deep breath in

He wrote what he wrote out of ignorance. I hope that one day he will choose to find the truth. Because it really is a beautiful truth and I think he might like what he learns. In the meantime, I will continue to love and be grateful for what I believe, for what it has helped me become, and will continue to help me become.

I will try to live with an “attitude of gratitude” for my ancestors and their sacrifice. To love and live my faith as they did. To never take it for granted. I will love, cherish and appreciate my family, friends, and thousands of others who try so hard to live what they believe—no matter the title of their religion—and do their best to love those around them without thought of reward, just because it is what He has taught them to do and they want to be like Him.

Slow breath out

The fire is gone…The green monster has left my heart…
I finally feel peace taking its place…
I will have moments again. I will feel the flicker of flames, the growth of the monster, but right now, with this situation…
I can let it go. I can move forward.

What ways have you found to deal with anger and difficult situations?

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