Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Theology Thursday #5: Anger and Perception

First of all, let’s get something straight: when I perceive there is an injustice, no matter how small, I turn into an asshole.
Take your pick...
They're both valid angry faces.
Banking regulations demanding I pay for a service that is pointless, poor service at a restaurant, another driver cutting in on the highway, or any life-isn’t-fair situation...they all make me fume. Typically, I turn that fuming on someone who has little power to change the situation. Typically, it hurts no one but myself when I do this. I don’t know why I do it. But I do know that other people have this problem, too. So I’d like to look at this from a theological angle, both as a therapy for myself and for others who may read this blog and find that it may help them, too.
I think my obsession is rooted in something good. That is to say, I think an understanding of “how things ought to be” is a gift. Without a common understanding of justice, there would be no order; only the powerful and oppressive would rule. Some might say this is already the case, but I’ll leave that for another time.
My selfishness and my temperament make the injustice seem like something that is threatening me right now. My perception is distorted. So I react. I rant and rave and try to argue my way out of it. Rarely, it works. Most of the time, I get so worked up about it I hurt no one but myself. I’ve learned through my 12-Step program to recognize when this is happening. But I wish I could prevent my reaction to begin with!
This is a spiritual issue, because spiritually I make the center of my understanding (my world) of all that I can perceive. My emotions take control. That doesn’t make emotions bad in themselves. It just means that emotions without perspective and spirituality are like a railroad car going off the tracks.
I’d hate to be on the receiving end of my ranting.
What’s the solution?
An experience I have weekly is my service commitment at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul. Weekly, our men’s AA group hosts a meeting in the Chemical Dependency Unit or the Mental Health Unit, depending on the week. It’s incredible. The people are very appreciative that we come there. We appreciate them, because they show us where we came from and we can share the experience, strength and hope of the 12 Steps.
After the meeting, I’m never thinking about my piddley little problems. I’m energized in helping others. It amazes me that in order to get out of myself, I have to help others. To really help myself, I have to be there for someone else. To live I must die to self.
That’s all spirituality is. It’s not rocket science. It’s about how to live a whole life. It’s about seeing God in the suffering, the forgotten, the needy… and providing.


Carol said...

It seems so easy and yet it is so difficult for many of us!! May we turn ourselves outward to others more and inward to ourselves less...

Djibouti Jones said...

This is a fantastic line: "That's all spirituality is...Its about how to live a whole life." Seeing the needs, seeing God there, and doing something. That's the book of James right there.

Coconut said...

I like the blog, Dan, it's raw stuff and you're sorting through human emotion. Pretty good insight is how I read it, with a strong category of human observation.

I anger fast too, as you know.

If I can observe my own anger well, I usually end up laughing at myself and think "how's that anger working for you Mister Joe?"