We live in an intensely angry world right now.
From the vast number of conflicts around the globe, to what we consider normal political discourse these days, to simple daily human interactions at work or on the road, so much of what we encounter is anchored in anger, drenched with hate.
We know that anger and frustration can be a catalyst, an accelerant, the fuel for action–big and small. And for me, anger most often comes in two forms.
It’s easy to see how anger at an unjust status quo calls us to action against systemic racism and related equity issues–or whatever the social impact issue might be. On the business front, there are countless stories of entrepreneurs creating new and better solutions to address areas of intense frustration. This first kind of anger, however motivated or pointed, is energizing and doesn’t involve a dangerous misalignment with ego. And it certainly doesn’t require hating or humiliating those who stand in opposition–or simply may not “get it.”
Then there is the anger of judgment, self-righteousness and one-upped-ness. The “I’m right, you’re wrong, and my ego is only going to be okay when I win and when I make you feel less than me (or even less than human).” We see this every day from Donald Trump and the “alt right“, from the road raging driver, from the religious zealot and, sometimes, in the day-to-day arguments with friends and loved ones. If I’m honest, I’ve been that guy more times than I care to think about.
This type of anger is rooted in fear. And fear rarely calls us to be our best selves. It often emerges from deep insecurity and generates a sense of false empowerment. It pushes people away. It makes connection impossible. It is devoid of compassion, generosity and basic humanity.
And it may work for awhile, but eventually it collapses under its own weight. And it certainly doesn’t–or shouldn’t–scale.
Bridges are better than walls. The bad driver is not going to change because I gave him the finger and leaned on the horn. I might feel better for a bit by “winning” the argument, but the possibility for lasting connection is lost and my reservoir of humanity is slowly drained.
In the battle between love and hate I know which side I’m taking.
Anger keeps us trapped, stuck, unconscious.