So what if I'm angry?
Back in November, I wrote a post about a woman’s reaction to an e-mail I sent to many in our church congregation. She was so distressed at how “angry” my e-mail had been. I obviously can’t speak for everyone who read it, but I have had many folks assure me it was not angry. But over the past few months, I have found myself wondering over and over, so what if it was? Why can’t I be angry?
Every day, I commute to an area where I am constantly gauging whether or not it is safe to be out in any given circle. I have been out and proud in every area of my life for almost 4 years, and suddenly in this new climate, I find myself choosing to stay closeted for fear of rejection and even violence. I see burial sites being destroyed, 45 attempting to legalize discrimination, refusals to protect trans students, elected officials literally ignoring their constituents, and on and on and on. Why can’t I be angry?!
Have you seen Inside Out, Pixar’s 2015 animated film about the emotions who live inside an 11-year-old’s head? This has to be one of my favorite movies, and it is a great tool for educating anyone of any age about emotions. The main theme throughout the movie is that every emotion (Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, Sadness) plays an important role, and you need them all in order to be emotionally healthy.
Side Note: I recently watched Inside Out with a two-year-old, and we had a fantastic discussion about the importance of sadness, and he taught me that sometimes you need to go in your “cozy cave” to spend some time with your sadness. I couldn’t believe how much this little guy understood!
In the movie, Anger is portrayed as important because he is very concerned with fairness. Great description, but throughout the movie, he seems to get angry over unimportant things and as a result makes poor decisions. While the movie does an effective job of teaching us the importance of Sadness, it’s not so hot on the importance of Anger. But that really seems to fit with our culture’s understanding of this “negative” emotion.
Unfortunately, that’s just not accurate. A 2014 article from Psychology Today explains anger really can be a good thing! Anger is a sign of emotional intelligence and even leads to more creative thinking. The article describes a study in which “Harvard’s Jennifer Lerner examined Americans’ reactions to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and found that feelings of anger evoked a sense of certainty and control on a mass scale, helping to minimize paralyzing fear and allowing people to come together for common cause.”
Given the current climate, it seems like anger is a useful emotion right now. Perhaps the problem is who is showing anger. Millions of people voted for 45, and much of his campaign was angry. While angry white men are a major trigger for me, many people are fine with it. It’s when women get angry. It’s when Muslims get angry. It’s when People of Color get angry. That’s when we don’t like it. We don’t want those marginalized voices to yell and demand – we want them to ask: “Please sir, I want some more.” And we tend to have selective memory. We remember MLK asking for his rights – we forget the boycotts, the marches blocking highways, the arrests, etc.
Folks, anger is important. I am an angry feminist, and I’m not going to apologize for it.
One of my favorite podcasts recently suggested listeners check out the podcast #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, and now I’m going to tell you to do the same. And in the line of this post, check out the episode, Large Groups of Angry People. Favorite quote: “Large groups of angry people have to stay large and angry. But also take calming baths in between.”