The alchemy of anger

For the Sacred Activist, the problem of anger represents one of the deepest spiritual challenges. On the one hand, as everyone has experienced, anger can blind your judgment and lead you into folly, hatred, and a furious and brutal self-righteousness that immediately repels those you hope to persuade or inspire. On the other, when alchemized by deep spiritual insight in the container of spiritual practice, anger can provide the fuel for working in the world with the laser-like energy of fierce compassion and wisdom.

If you and I are not outraged by what is happening everywhere in our world, we will remain where so many find themselves, in paralysis, apathy and denial. Yet if our outrage masters us, we may become irrational, violent, and destructive in our turn, inwardly ravaged by rage at, and hatred of our opponents that will not only dehumanize us but also cripple our effectiveness.

If we work with this anger and outrage, however, without repressing or judging or denying it, with the crucible of spiritual practice, it can be transformed into a reservoir of purified passion, compassion and wisdom that will give us power and stamina. Julia Butterfly Hill has described this process in an interview with Andre Beath in Consciousness in Action:

In today’s world, it’s not only our right to be angry, it’s our responsibility. The question is, do we act out of anger or love? That’s what makes the difference. The reason I feel it’s our responsibility to be angry is that anyone who looks at the world will recognize that we hurt innocent life, and bring more children into the world who will be injured. The anger comes from knowing we have the potential to do it another way and yet we don’t. Then we let go, and the anger becomes secondary. I do what I do because of my love, not my anger.

~ Andrew Harvey, The Hope: a guide to sacred activism

For more on how to deal with and transform anger see: The anger and rage collection: what we don’t engage we cannot transform

And more posts that feature Andrew Harvey’s work here.


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