Monday, July 02, 2007


I have always been a person whose anger was slow to rise. Losing my temper for me has always meant losing self-control. I've seen it as a weakness, the way that some people see tears. Once anger would get the better of me, I would flare high with great heat and intensity, using my verbal skills as accurately and harshly as Indiana Jones used his whip. I also got over my anger quickly and spent more time apologizing for my temporary meanness than I had used in the heat of the moment. The idea of staying angry has been unimaginable to me until now.

I guess the difference in emotional temperature has affected the duration of my anger. I am still cold inside, and I am still furious. I have been for days. Not knowing at whom I should be angry has helped maintain this state. I've never trusted people easily, but now I'm actively suspicious of almost everyone I see. Never very talkative, but always quick with a hello and a smile, I now look at people with eyes that feel like ice. I've been told before that I can be "a scary broad", and it's made me chuckle with that feeling of if only they really knew what a softy I was. Now, I can see that scary broad in the mirror. People have been right. A smart person wouldn't want to mess with me.

Anger makes me feel strong. It throws my insecurities into a harsh light where I can look at them and wonder why in the world I was ever that hard on myself. That's actually a rather seductive part of anger. I've long needed to feel my strength for something other than its ability to allow me to endure. It throws that harsh light on everyone else as well, and I find myself trying to constrain and cage a judgmentalism that I thought I had trained out of myself. This is very hard. Judging others is a beast that I had not killed but merely tethered well, and it has broken away from me and banished forgiveness to some distant hiding place.

Despite my coldness, I haven't been able to turn off my empathy for people, but it has been turned and perverted. There is part of me that wants to use this gift as a weapon now. It's always allowed me to understand others and to build bridges. It has been part of my warmth and my ability to comfort. I now know that I could use it to cripple someone as well by using a laser focus on their vulnerabilities.

The saying "Revenge is a dish best served cold" has always seemed logical to me, but I've never had a taste for vengeance. The desire for it is rolling around on my tongue now, like some savory leftover whose flavors blend even more when chilled. It's tempting, more than I ever imagined.

Yet all of this runs counter to my faith and my values. I know this is wrong. My love for others is a grace I should offer others because I have been loved. As is my forgiveness because I have been forgiven so much. These are mere intellectual ideas to me know. I don't feel them, but they're still a part of me. That part of me for whom obedience to to God/dess has been trying to live as much like Jesus as I could feels numb. I finally understand those people who have thought religious believers were fools. This anger feels stronger than my faith, and there is only a small part of me that is disturbed by that.

This is why I've feared my anger for so long. It separates me from my better self, from my Creator and from all that is good in people and the world. That is also an intellectual observation, because my gut is saying this strength and coldness feels right and much better than what I have known before.

I am not in a good mental, emotional or spiritual place for prayer, yet that is what I am planning on doing, even if I end up only going through the motions as I suspect will happen. As seductive and delicious as this anger feels, I do not want it. I would like to learn from it, but staying cold would be too much of a loss. It would be removing myself from grace.

I've recently read The Ninth Circle by Jodi Picoult. As the title implies, it draws much of its symbolism overtly from Dante who envisioned the ninth and lowest circle of hell as a paralyzing lake of ice. Growing up in a conservative Southern Baptist church, I was taught a literal heaven with pearly gates and streets of gold and a literal hell of an eternally burning pit of fire. As my religious beliefs developed, I came to see heaven as union with and deep understanding of God/dess, all that is pure, righteous and holy. Hell has been a more troublesome concept for many reasons, and my very undeveloped understanding has had me at the point of seeing hell as being stuck forever with all the consequences of our actions and desires. Judi was very wise to quote Frost's wonderful poem in a comment on my first entry on anger the other day. Dante was wise and so was Picoult to use ice imagery for Hell. It would indeed be cold.

anger, spirituality


Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I have seen myself turned to cold stone by anger. Which is why I wonder why "hot" has been used as a synonym for "angry." Some of the deepest and most destructive anger is anything but hot...

July 04, 2007 12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this several times both in intrigue and fear. I identify with this all too well. Amazingly written.

July 05, 2007 6:52 PM  
Blogger tinahorn_cae said...

Hi, Cynthia,

I found your site from QuakerDave, coming here because I'm a quilter and will read nearly anything that says quilt.

I really enjoyed your entry on anger.

July 11, 2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous TinaH said...

You're inspired me to ruminate on my own experiences with anger. What I've figured out is, that while anger can be a very dangerous place/process/feeling/whatever it is, I have also been able to reach significant truths within myself while I'm angry. It's like fire for me, and burns away some of my self-delusion or my desperate wanting to see only the best in people.

Anger can be very liberating. And goodness knows, THAT is dangerous too!

July 13, 2007 8:14 AM  

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