I noticed that many columns printed in the Thanksgiving issue of this publication spoke of the healing and redemptive powers of gratitude.
This is fitting for the season, when our focus often turns inward toward hearth and home. Gratitude can lift the spirit and heal the mind. It can go a long way toward the old maxim, "Physician (or in our case, Nurse!), heal thyself."
Thankfully, a recognition of life’s blessings does not preclude other skillful means of engaging inner strength in the world. On that note, I want to talk about the benefits of effectively managed anger.
People often fear anger, their own as well as others. This may be because of how abusive rage can be, when not managed properly, and because people often absorb the brunt of mismanaged rage.
A famous Buddhist monk wrote an entire book on the subject of anger. Moral outrage though, when channeled mindfully, can be a powerful motivator and a great force for positive change.
In other words, Rosa Parks didn’t refuse to give up her seat on that bus for nothing. A blind practice of gratitude and "thinking positive," to the exclusion of other reactions, may have led her to discount her feelings of outrage. Her inner voice may have told her to just be grateful for the privilege of riding a bus at all!
After all, she wasn’t enslaved as her ancestors had been. Mindful of her moral outrage, though, at the wrongness of being forced to give up her seat (simply due to the color of her skin), she refused.
Her refusal that day led to her arrest, and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her act of civil disobedience has been credited as a tipping point, which drove the larger Civil Rights movement toward victory. There are many other examples.
Just as other columnists in these pages have encouraged people to consider a practice of gratitude, I’d like to encourage readers to consider a mindful practice of righteous indignation. Not to the point that it’s paralyzing or abusive, but so it’s galvanizing enough to get you fighting for a cause.
Anger is a God-given emotion, and an incredible force when managed properly. We feel it for a reason. Maybe your ‘cause’ is to rally against drunk driving, or raise money for Alzheimer’s or Leukemia. Maybe it’s starting a support group for abuse survivors, or it could be writing a letter to an editor or to Congress.
Anger can be a powerful energy when it’s not squandered, denied or misused. Indignation can be acknowledged and channeled, with wonderful and amazing results.