Nov 12 2014
I found an old journal I have, and found an old note I had written many years ago. It was an uber simple note, two words.
Anger <- Injustice
It’s interesting to me, looking back now, to realize how angry I always was, and how little I was cognizant of it. I wasn’t angry: I was outraged. I felt wronged by the world and by my circumstances. I was angry about what I perceived to be injustice in the world. I was angry when people didn’t follow the rules of society or were rude. I was angry when people were inconsiderate and unappreciative. I was angry that life wasn’t fair.
That anger is a waste of time. Part of my recovery was to expose myself to things that made me angry: comment sections on the internet, waiting in line at Starbucks, driving in the car during rush hour and to choose not to be angry. To choose not to be affected. The truth is the same truth I’ve known my whole life: the world isn’t fair and injustice is often a normal result of the chaos of life. That is not a comforting truth, but there is a freedom in being able to release your anger along with your expectations of “fair” or “just”.
That being said, there’s an important distinction to be made. Some things should make us angry. Some injustices are too large to ignore – and no, that doesn’t mean the guy shouting on his phone in line, or the teenaged kid who just cut you off in traffic. Those situations may not be just, but they’re also just irritating.
It reminds me of the serenity prayer – the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. The issue comes when you can see a problem, an injustice which desperately needs to be amended but the change that’s needed – it is greater than you. This problem looms so large that you can’t see the edges and you can’t see a solution. It is our duty, in those circumstances, to work towards correcting that injustice, but the movement to do so often requires big thinkers: thinkers with the ability to fix a wide angle lens on the injustice and the historical context. Those thinkers; those leaders: they can lead a conversation; illuminate the issues and help everyone start to work towards a solution.
The problem with injustice, especially systemic injustice, is that it breeds distrust on all sides. Conversations can never happen in that environment. And so, any possible progress stalls. Injustice and anger become status quo. Then we have to disentangle anger to get at the heart of the problem, to actually begin to work towards solutions. How many of us are inclined to disentangle anger and to try to communicate in an environment where we don’t feel respected or valued? Then we have a situation where that original injustice breeds an anger that is unseen and unheard, an anger that is ignored while it builds and eventually that anger has to explode. The ignition isn’t the most important part of the equation: the fuel that’s been built up is the key.
Do we disperse the anger by correcting the injustice? Can an injustice be corrected before we are able to work through the anger we feel? Is there even a possible solution, in all of this chaos and mess?
I don’t know. But I have an overwhelming sense that there is courageous work to be done.