Teetering: “Righteous Anger” and Compassion

As mentioned off and on for a while, I’m struggling with anger over so man things that are going on. Periodically I realize I’m back screaming at certain “leaders” every time their faces appear, grinding my teeth as I scan social media and follow links to read more, and, a couple of weeks ago when a station I was watching moved from old shows to airing some kind of evangelical church service, I found myself angrily making up words to the hymn they started with and singing: “My Jesus hates you, and we kill, kill, kill…”

Being self-aware enough to see this is DEFINITELY in conflict with my beliefs about holding a space of love, peace and compassion, I keep circling back to questioning the source of the anger and how to shift it. And one puzzle I constantly come back to, is how to be “righteously” angry and yet hold that space.

Many spiritual leaders and writers feel there is such a thing as righteous anger and that, when great wrongs are being committed, we must all feel that anger and do something toward righting the wrong. None seem to address how such anger impacts the energy of the web nor do they seem to offer much advice about how to feel that angry and still find the love and compassion with which to “do something” but do it with nonviolence.

I have long been unconvinced that “righteous” anger is any different, energetically speaking, than any other. It worries me when I react with anger because I can feel how it takes hold and shoves the loving, peaceful aspect of me out of function. And since I believe the energy space each of us holds adds up to the totality of energy that is All That Is, every time one of us is angry instead of loving, our energetic contribution to the web is the energy of anger.

Most of the spiritual leaders who say it’s fine to be outraged over injustice, etc. but to be nonviolent in what you do about it, seem remarkably silent on the question of how to move from the angry place of the one to the compassionate place of the other. I’d guess the majority of people aren’t well equipped to transition on a dime from place to the other.

I see 3 main arenas we as individuals can work on to help us in recognizing the wrongs that need to be righted but stay compassionate and develop non violent solutions:

  1. Ferreting out repressed anger (or other deeply held negative emotions). I’ve noted the above video before and I really like how deeply it works on transforming anger but there are many other methods, including “process” work like Fischer-Hoffman, the Diamond Heart approach, transpersonal psychology, etc. Just find the mode that works for you.
  2. Being able to stay present in the moment is really important. If you can’t even stay conscious enough to realize anger has grabbed you and it’s time to shift away, how you can move into non violent responses? I include more than just sitting vipassana; chanting (sung or spoken), movement practices like yoga or qi gong, and some guided meditations like yoga nidra are all ways that people of different temperaments can tune into the present.
  3. Long ago I read some spiritual leader saying the key to coping with emotions and events coming at you is to allow them to pass through you without affecting.  One of many teachings that’s easier said than done. I think it takes a lot of practice and dedication to reach a place where you don’t even have to think about staying in the space of lovingkindness and compassion and calm.

There are many ways to work on holding that space.  One factor is how you “feed” yourself in your life.  Are you doing practices like metta or singing chats or meditating (whatever form) regularly? Are you reading books like Tara Brach’s 

4 thoughts on “Teetering: “Righteous Anger” and Compassion

  1. I hear you Leigh. We may be in synch because the post I just published covers the same topic.
    I am acutely aware of my anger but shifting it is another story.

  2. It’s persuasive that nothing has worked to end racial inequality in USA. Also persuasive that it is a power game where the dominant gains resulting in pain for the suppressed. Then it is reasonable to asses the entire structure of governance. This is an extremely unsettling process and historically has as many bad results as good.If property rights trump human rights then a paradigm shift is in order. The only certainty is this shift will be disruptive for all.

  3. Pingback: Delving into anger | Not Just Sassy on the Inside

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