The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have been sitting with the message from church Sunday for 2 days now. It was about wrath vs. righteous anger. It was after a brutal weekend of struggling with a ton of negative feelings… jealousy, rage, feeling betrayed, confusion, sadness, hopelessness… I was angry. I was so angry that I didn’t sleep at all Friday night. I worked HARD to control my anger, too. That is until about 6am… Then I reacted. And, my actions, whether I feel they were justified or not, caused an avalanche of negative consequences for me and loads of people around me. I became unhinged. I am ashamed of my actions because I acted so poorly.
So, when I walked into church on Sunday, and Pastor Emily displayed that MLK quote, I was destroyed.
Where do I stand in times of challenge and controversy? Most times, I react… regret my reaction… then beg for forgiveness. On top of that, I usually end up taking on all of the blame and the guilt in order to show the person with whom I am disagreeing that I care enough to forgive and absolve them of any wrongdoing. Is that righteous? I hardly think so.
Now, the message itself was about how Jesus was so angry at the Temple in Jerusalem because people were using it as a marketplace instead of as a place of worship. Was his anger righteous? Was it wrath? Fury? What the heck is the difference?
The message I was supposed to receive is that it is certainly ok, and even expected, to feel angry (righteous or not). It is what we DO with the anger that defines us as in the quote above. How do we act when we feel anger? Do we seek revenge? Do we retaliate- “eye for an eye” style? Finally, when is it acceptable to STAND UP and fight back? But, the message I walked away with is that I need to get my stuff together.
For my whole life, I have been a spongy doormat. I absorb all of the problems and let you walk all over me. The dirtier the feet the better. I take and take until finally… I explode. I have NO more absorbency. And then, I unleash my wrath. My anger is not righteous. Even when I am trying to stand up for others, I LOSE IT. It’s ugly. It’s unkind. It never makes me feel better. I don’t want to be this way any more.
I don’t feel like I can wrap this writing up in a nice, little package like I have in the previous reflection pieces this Lent. Perhaps it’s because I’m literally so pissed off at the world right now. My anger, although sometimes justified, is a burning fire inside me. It’s consuming me. I want to burn everything to the ground. I want someone, anyone, to pay for my life not being what I imagined it would be. I want to be seen. I want to be worthy. I want to be ENOUGH.
I am in a state of unrest when all I want is to be rested. I am in a state of anger when all I want is peace. I’m in a state of pain and selfishness when all I want is to feel generous and giving. How do I move past this anger? How can I possibly live a righteous life if I cannot get past this anger?
I was speaking with someone yesterday and I said this, “I am a generous, caring, nurturing person. I deserve to be treated with respect and consideration. I want to be FREE to EXPRESS myself. I want to be treated with the same kindness I try to show everyday. I desperately want to have a backbone when people are being assholes.” I have yet to feel better after I express my concerns about ANYTHING. Isn’t that a darn shame? Never. I express myself and then wring my hands with worry until I am physically sick. Definitely not righteous.
The crux of my anger is that I am gagged by fear and worry. I fear the retribution of others if I stand up for myself. I worry about the pain I will cause if I don’t let someone know they made me feel pain. So, I bottle it up until I just can’t take it any longer. Then, all of the fire that is currently burning suddenly spews out everywhere. It’s not pretty to be around. Then, I am filled with shame.
If I were to be measured today by where I stand in times of challenge and controversy, I would be very displeased. I need mercy. I need guidance. I need more reflection. I seriously need more help than ever.
Talking in circles and getting nowhere. Fun.