Existential Psychology

Choose Love Over Anger In The Face Of Injustice

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We have the right to be outraged when norms, values, and rights we hold dear are maliciously trampled upon. And anger is a powerful, powerful motivator, no doubt about it. That rising tidal wave of rage makes us keen to act, keen to go out into the world to right the perceived wrong in order to restore the balance of things.

But anger is an unsustainable state of being. The predictable result for anyone seeking to change the world using anger as the primary motivator is burnout. Sooner or later energy flags and apathy and despair set in. We can think of anger as rocket fuel. It’s extremely potent but it runs out very quickly. And all it needs is a spark to explode.

Anger is a potent but dangerous emotion. It certainly assists in setting our sites on one target and moving towards this target with purpose, but it also causes tunnel vision, irrationality, thoughtless reactivity, and other undesirable behaviors that run counter to accessing and utilizing the full suite of  human powers and creativity, to effectively employing the prefrontal cortex.

We definitely don’t want to repress our anger. When we sense its presence we want to do just the opposite, to invite it into our proverbial living rooms, offer it a place to sit, and ask it to communicate its pressingly important message. But once that message is received we don’t need to fan the flames of anger. Because, as Yoda put it, “…anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” And suffering is exactly the problem when our outrage is caused by unjust circumstances. These circumstances cause us or some other entity we care about to suffer. If we represent a cause of peace and justice, if the norms, values, and rights we hold dear are based upon inclusion, patience, generosity, kindness, and above all love, then anger is the wrong choice to sustain us. It draws its power from the dark well of our suffering rather than the light spring of our love.

We might not yet feel ready to do what Jesus Christ asked of us, we might not yet feel ready to love our enemies. But we can certainly all generate compassion and love for ourselves and for those people or entities we believe are being treated unjustly. And with time and insight we can see that those who make us suffer, the perpetrators of injustice, are suffering deeply themselves and have chosen destructiveness in the attempt to find some relief.

The tools of injustice are fear, intimidation, and violent words and deeds, and these weapons are all built upon the anger and suffering of those perpetrators of injustice. Trying to use those same tools against injustice is wrong thinking. It only leads to greater suffering and to the representatives of injustice rationalizing their behavior on the grounds that members of the opposition are doing the exact same thing. Love and positivity and hope are the tools of justice. If the norms, values, and rights we hold dear are built upon a foundation of peace and love then we have to be peaceful and loving in their defense.

This doesn’t mean we have to be passive, only that we should never lose sight of the fact that the real battle for supremacy occurs within our own psyches, that peace, love, and justice aren’t just theoretical constructs out there in the world but live or stagnate within each and every one of us, that when we’re peaceful, loving, just people then by definition peace, love, and justice exist. The more of our psychic space is taken up by anger, the less is made for the very ways of being in the world we’re seeking to defend. When we choose love over anger in the face of injustice we protect our psyches from burnout, we prime ourselves to enact productive actions with the a better probability of a desirable result since we’re using our higher cognitive functions and avoiding violence and destructiveness, and we relate to people and the world on the basis of the norms, values, and rights we cherish rather than acting in a similar fashion as those who threaten those norms, values, and rights.