A couple of years ago I set myself a personal goal to “Reduce the Outrage.” I modified it and combined it with another last year, and carried it over again this year1. I’ve been sick off-and-on2 for about nine weeks, which means I’m cranky and prone to overreact a lot of the time. In one of the social/cultural spheres I inhabit, certain events are underway which increases the number of things being said about topics in which I have a lot of personal investment. Add to that the histrionics of the U.S. presidential campaign season, and it is really easy for me to find myself in an outraged state.
I’ve written before about letting oneself become outraged in unproductive ways, becoming resentful rather than doing something constructive, for instance. And I’ve quoted before the old proverb, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then waiting for the other person to die.”
The whole reason I set those goals about reducing outrage is because unproductive outrage is toxic and self-destruction and does no good to anyone.
But anger is a symptom of pain, and it is just as self-destructive to ignore pain. Finding something to do to alleviate the harm isn’t always easy. Root causes of many problems are beyond our control. I’m a writer; language is my primary toolset for tackling many problems. Unfortunately, analysis is something of an obsession with me, so I will over-analyze things and easily fall into a toxic spiral of writing, revising, ranting, revising, trying to be reasonable, revising some more—feeling increasingly frustrated and more outraged at every step.
I’ve been stuck in one such spiral for about two weeks.
Then, through a series of fortuitous clicks (reading one article, clicking a link in it, reading the referenced blog post, clicking a link in it, et cetera), I came across this post from Steve Saus4 from last May that said one of the things I’ve been thinking about so much perfectly: And you shall know them by their works. It says it so well, and more importantly, so succinctly, that I’m just going to quote the whole thing here:
There are two sides in our current culture wars.
But don’t decide which side is which by their names.
You will know them by their actions.
One side works so that everyone should have an opportunity to do something – get married, be nominated for an award, pee in whatever bathroom, be on television.
The other side already can – and has – done all those things. That side works so that only their group can get married, be nominated for an award, pee in a bathroom, or be on television.
Forget the labels for a second.
Are you working to give more people the same chances and opportunities… or to deny chances and opportunities to someone else?
It all comes down to that. Are you working to give people opportunities, or are you trying to keep opportunity out of their hands?
1. A post has long been brewing about my failure to post monthly goal reports the last two months of last year, and how I’m handling my goals this year.
2. Or maybe it’s continuously and those stretches of several days when I thought I was well in between the symptoms were just pauses in the illness. We’re not sure.3
3. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that my husband has been sick much of the same time, though frequently our symptoms are out of synch. So when I’ve been feeling almost recovered, he’s been at his worst.
4. Steve Saus is a writer, editor, and publisher who blogs at Idea Trash. A blog which has now joined my regular reading list.