I think, for most of us, anger is the most common and the toughest of the patterns of evil thought to conquer. It certainly has been for me. My constant challenge is to live each day with as much love as I can, to love my neighbour as myself. Some days, that is very easy to do. Others, not so much. As a deeply flawed inhabitant of God’s earth, I have struggled with all these ‘patterns of evil thought’ just as you likely have. But anger is my nemesis, and I have work on it consciously- and often. A lot of things make me mad in this world, and I have a hard time keeping that in check. Things like injustice, intolerance, bigotry, and apathy make me very angry. But sometimes, it is the little things that send us over the edge: bad service in a restaurant, the politics of little league baseball, parent-teacher meetings, annoying co-workers, disrespectful teenagers and rush hour traffic.
Yet I found inspiration recently, in a most unlikely place, which helped me to work with the energy of anger in a creative way.
I came across an interview with Bob Geldof, the acerbic Irish rock star who dedicated much of his career to the cause of ending global poverty. He is a fearless and outspoken man of extraordinary character, whose work and commitment inspires people all over the world. As for his personality and temparament…well, Mother Theresa he’s not. Bob Geldof is angry, and he admits it.
In the interview, sir Bob was discussing the idea of activism, and described a primary difference between himself and his friend Bono, another Irish rocker who has dedicated admirable time and effort towards changing the world for the better. Geldof said, “Bono, as we all know, is in love with the world. He’s enamored by it. I’m enraged by it. He wants to give the world a great big hugp; I want to punch its lights out.”
That quote made me laugh at first, but then I started really thinking about it and came to the conclusion that it was pure genius because it represents a great human conundrum: how, exactly, are those of us who are trying to embrace a philosophy of love able to deal with our anger over the injustices that drive us to the brink? We all wrestly with our anger over the issues in our lives as well as out there in the world. How do we keep that anger from bubbling over?
The lesson I took from looking at Geldof’s example was this:
Anger is a powerful emotion and when anger is channeled properly it can be an irresistible force used to positive effect.
Rather than simply ranting at the world- or worse, allowing the anger to devour our insides when we suppress it- we need to find constructive ways to harness that energy and put it to work for change. Bob Geldof motivated a majority of the entire entertainment industry, and ultimately millions of global citizens, not only to care but to take action about the plight of suffering human beings. He did this by harnessing his anger- and making it work in a dynamic way.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves about our imperfections. Anger is a most difficult demon to tame. But in the interest of living with more love and changing the world, channeling it into a force for justice or charity seems a most effective means of dealing with it.
You don’t have to be an activist to apply this idea. You can use it in your own life for your own benefit as well, which is perfectly acceptable and a very positive thing to do. Think about how much adrenaline builds inside of you when you are angry about something. You know, that feeling that you want to explode when something or someone really ticked you off? What if you could take that same energy and re-route it, use it toward a personal goal that you may have?
And that, sweet friends, is what I choose to do with my anger. I feel it and I do not deny it. I use it as an active principle. Some say I am not ‘loving’ because I speak out- sometimes harshly- against things that I find to be unjust or untrue. But for me, love is not a passive principle. Love is an active principle which moves me to action. I do the work I do because I love the world and want to make it a better place.
We all express love differently depending on our own personal missions in this life. Mine is an active expression. We all have to find our way.
KATHLEEN McGOWAN has published various books including ‘The Source of Miracles’, published in 2009; a self-help book, based on the Lord’s prayer.