Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Peace and Curiosity against Righteous Indignation

All anger presents as righteous indignation. Have you ever been angry and not convinced you were right to be so?

It is only in retrospect that one realizes that one was in error, with embarrassment and shame.
Maybe being angry makes us too sure, too certain of our view of others, too unquestioning of the humanity of others.

Sadly, righteous indignation is a powerful emotion and addictive. 

It leads to a lot of victim-blaming. If those people didn't make us mad, then they wouldn't have to deal with the consequences of making us mad. This is straight out of the abusive spouse/parent playbook. It feels righteous, it sure seems like righteous indignation -- while you're in it. Then come the apologies and then another relapse.

It justifies acting badly. When we use force, bullying, pillory, public humiliation, verbal abuse, defamation ... well, that's okay because we are the good guys. It's okay when Batman takes the law into his own hands. It's okay when Superman drops someone's office building on Luthor. It's okay when we bomb cities where bad guys are hiding. It's all fine because good guys get to do bad things in the cause of justice.

Although, it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys when their methods are identical, isn't it? 

An unexamined righteousness is a dangerous thing.

What if our anger is only presenting as righteousness and comeuppance, but is based on a misread of our circumstances or other people's motivation? Where is the curiosity, openness, discussion, dialogue?

How fast are we to label a villain and search them out for signs of villainy?

And what if we're only a little right, and the so-called villain is not set in their way but willing to be converted? Does our crusade drive them into greater "villainy" as it feeds their sense of being victimized unfairly? Doesn't it activate their righteous indignation?

Oh, that sounds like today's social media. And all other media too. 

Welcome to the age of outrage.

"Social" media (so-called, though it tends to be a shouting factory)  is full of people sloppy drunk on outrage.  Often, being angry and venting that anger is all the action that is taken. Abusing and bullying to "make them suffer for their crimes" masquerades as helping.  It's likely more about revenge and sharing pain than making a change, and unlikely to create any change. It's pretty good at creating animosity, broken relationships, lost opportunities, and enemies. So, you know, if that's "a better world" then I guess it is positive action.

I have found that outrage, especially habitual and recreational anger, make my life less creative, happy, useful, and meaningful while also not leading me to make any real change in the world (only enemies).

This is why I have been on a multi-year journey to rid myself of habitual anger, recreational anger, and worry.  

Strangely, I find I'm more likely to take action out of compassion for others than out of outrage and anger.

When I'm angry, I crave a victim and an opportunity for a violent act (even if it's just angry words).

When I care, I look to help.

I know it's not my job to tell other people how to think and feel. So I'm just sharing what works for me and inviting everyone who is of a mind to listen and consider alternatives.

Maybe we could all be less sure, less angry, and more busy looking for allies and partners and friends rather than scouring social media for enemies to shout down.

Sure, that's sensible, though not everyone who is sloppy drunk on outrage is looking to be sensible.

I don't know how to talk sense to a drunk. I have to instead look for opportunities to talk to the sober, or those who are looking to become so. Looking for kindred souls seems better to me than shouting down angry people.

You've come this far, so maybe you and I have just found each other.

How are you doing? How can we get to know each other? What interests you?

How did you escape your outrage and start to take responsibility for yourself and others?
Do we need a hashtag?