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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Feeding on Rage

If you ever want to see what happens when you allow yourself to become obsessed with grievances and negativity, then read this:

If you are wondering what the lowest circle of hell is like, it appears to look a lot like the feminist blogosphere.  This is not a dig at feminists, because you can find the same thing on some Orthodox internet forums.

When you make your whole life about the bad things being done to you, or just how bad other people are, it invariably clouds your judgment.  Here are all these women who are grinding each other up with more and more complex rules of communication, which essentially drives out many of their smartest and most well-intentioned because the rules are just so bizarre and non-sensical.

Here's how weird it can get:

Similarly, there’s a norm that intention doesn’t matter—indeed, if you offend someone and then try to explain that you were misunderstood, this is seen as compounding the original injury. Again, there’s a significant insight here: people often behave in bigoted ways without meaning to, and their benign intention doesn’t make the prejudice less painful for those subjected to it. However, “that became a rule where you say intentions never matter; there is no added value to understanding the intentions of the speaker,” Cross says.

So, if you cross one of the etiquette boundaries, which are constantly shifting and morphing, you might as well commit suicide.  There is no repentance, and similarly no conversion.  Thus, the negativity becomes a hopeless pit where the world is full of bigots and racists and sexists that will never change.  The complaining becomes not a path to a solution but a coping mechanism for permanent despair.

This is, in some ways, no surprise in this particular arena, because many women have told me that one of the key differences between men and women is that when women talk, they are often 'processing' rather than looking for a solution.  Just about the opposite is true for men: when we talk, we expect to hear a suggestion or an answer to our quandary.

So, the scold-a-thon is something to be expected in this case, yet it flies in the face of what they seek.

If we feed off of rage, then we descend into this self-consuming madness.

What is the way out?  I'm glad you asked.

The way out of rage begins with the self-discipline of good manners.  Yes, that's right: manners.

When we step back from expressing our own rage, we often find that being under control feels a lot better than being out-of-control.  Rage can be fun in short bursts, but it soon becomes scary.  When we confine ourselves to being polite, then we enjoy the security of knowing that we are doing and saying exactly what we want to do or say.

Manners are different from etiquette, which is the elaborate rules that delineate 'insiders' from 'outsiders.'  I learned about this years ago while reading Quentin Crisp's book, Manners from Heaven.  Yes, I know he is a gay 'superstar,' but he had tremendous insight into the human mind and the  power of manifesting kindness towards others.

The feminist movement is now all about etiquette, the violations of which become the trip-wires for rage.  When it comes to good manners, we roll up the wires and allow people to plod around, provided they have the right intentions.

Sometimes our rage is a reaction to our own personal etiquette rules rather than the intention of the person we are offended by.  By ignoring intention, we feed our rage by convincing ourselves that the other person is intentionally disrespecting us.  That just has to stop.  Rage kills, and it feeds addiction.

Once we roll back our propensity to be offended and stop feeding our rage, then we can more clearly see the power of the Lord's Prayer:

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

This short line is a rage-killer, because it reminds us of our failings and how they are no different from the people we are offended by.  We let the other person go through forgiveness, and we find the clenched fist of fury subsides.  We have peace.  God heals us.

I get angry more often than I should, and so I am reminding myself about this as I struggle to forgive.  It is not easy, and some of us have long roads ahead.  But, never give up hope.  There is a path away from rage, and it leads to God.

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