TIME TO SIMMER DOWN
Our theme for this month is inspired by the summer heat and how we keep cool during it. And, we've said that our response to the physical heat could be a powerful metaphor for how we handle life when it heats up.
Each week this month, we are exploring different ways we can keep our spiritual cool when the heat is on!
Continuing our work begun last week, today's theme is "Time to Simmer Down," and we will take an open and honest look at how we heat up with that emotional response called anger by exploring questions like:
* What is it really about?
* Is it ever productive?
* And, most importantly, what can you do with yours?!
Here's a little heads up: The answers to these questions may not be what you expect!
Before we look at those questions, let's back up just a bit. Last week we looked at the shadow side of life - which is lower case "l" life otherwise known as the relative. Remember? And upper case "L" Life is the what? The Absolute. And we said that in the Absolute there is absolutely no shadow. There is only the Oneness, there is only Light, AND in our human experience, we experience the false appearance, the illusion of two-ness, which can look like the shadow. Remember all that?
I shared that Robert Bly in his book A Little Book on the Human Shadow, suggested that we are each born into a "360-degree personality."a And please catch the spiritual significance of that. 360-degrees is what? A perfect circle, right? And a perfect circle symbolizes wholeness, which is where our exploration last Sunday ended up.
Ernest Holmes tells us in his book It's Up to You!: "Spiritually, we are the offspring, if we wish to put it that way, the manifestation or emanation of a universal Wholeness. This universal Wholeness is in us in a very true sense of the term because, as the originating principle of life we have God, or universal Spirit, out of which anything and everything was made. Therefore everyone is truly born of God. If this is true, then we are primarily and fundamentally perfect, no matter what we have done to ourselves [and I'll add "what others may have done to us."]."b
Bly said as infants, we expressed the full breadth of our human nature, all 360-degrees, our wholeness, without editing or censoring. But as we grow up, we learned that certain slices of our 360-degree pie are unacceptable to the people around us.
Maybe we were shamed for crying or punished for being angry. Maybe we were ridiculed for wanting attention or acting proud of ourselves. So, we learned to repress those slices of our pie; the ones that got us hurt.
According to Bly, it was as if we threw these unacceptable qualities over our shoulder into a bag, which we've been dragging around behind us ever since.
The challenge is if we don't come to wholeness around them through acceptance and love (again, our work last week), they don't stay in the bag! They seep out and overshadow us. This happens in relatively small was - like being cross with our partners or in devastating ways like wars in the world.
We shake our heads and feel impotent to be of any help when things like this happen in our world. Or we get angry. Very, very angry at how inhumane humanity can be.
But we can do something about it. And that something begins right here, inside ourselves. And that is what I want us to do more of today as we look at this emotion that many of us have stuffed in the bag we carry on our shoulders called anger.
WHAT IS ANGER ABOUT?
So, let's turn to our questions. There are many theories and psychological perspectives on this topic of anger, and what I offer you this morning is my take. It doesn't have to be yours, but what I hope today's dialog will do is cause you to think, really think, about all of these questions and come to your own clarity about them.
So, here is my take on this first question: what is anger really about?
To answer the question, imagine this. Imagine that you are hungry. Very, very hungry. You have $5 to your name and you have a $5 bill lying on your kitchen counter to go to the store to buy a loaf of bread. You go into your bedroom to put on your shoes and, while you are there, someone sneaks into your house and steals your $5.
Oh, my, my, my I suspect you would be angry. Really, really angry! Run after the thief. Call the police outraged! Understandably so.
Now, let's look at that again. Let's say this time you are, still, hungry. Very, very hungry. You have your $5 bill lying on your kitchen counter to go to the store to buy a loaf of bread. You go into your bedroom to put on your shoes and, while you are there, someone sneaks into your house and steals your $5.
But this time, you have $5 M tucked in away in your house. Question. How angry are you now?
Not so much. In fact, you might have some compassion for the poor person who took the $5. You might think he or she is pretty desperate -- right? -- to steal a measly $5. You wish you would have known. You would have given them much more.
So nothing changed about what happen. The "thing" that made you so angry in the first situation is the same "thing" in the second situation, but your reaction is completely different.
Why? Because in the first scenario you had very little of what you needed very badly; in the second you had lots and lots and lots of it.c
Now, this parable isn't about money. Parables never are what they are about on the surface!
Rather, my friends, it is about love. The one thing we all need to have lots and lots and lots of. And when we feel sufficient love, true, real, unconditional love, our anger response is dialed, way, way, way down.
Greg Baer, in his book Real Love, writes: "We need to remember that our anger is actually a reaction to the feelings of helplessness and fear that result from a lifetime of struggling to survive without unconditional love."d
I want to tell you a true story about what real, unconditional love looks like and about what happens in the presence of it.
A famous research scientist, who had made several very important medical breakthroughs, was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter, who asked him why he thought he was able to achieve so much more than the average person. In other words, what set him apart?
He responded that it all came from a lesson his mother had taught him when he was 2 years old. He'd been trying to take a bottle of milk out of the refrigerator, when he lost his grip and spilled the entire contents on the kitchen floor.
His mother, instead of being angry with him or punishing him for doing something he certainly had no business doing said:
"What a wonderful mess you've made! I've rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage is already done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk before we clean it up?"
Indeed, he did. And, after a few minutes, his mother continued:
"You know, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a towel, sponge, or mop. Which do you prefer?"
After they were finished cleaning up the milk, she said:
"What we have here is a failed experiment in how to carry a big bottle of milk with two tiny hands. Let's go out in the backyard, fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it."
And that is what they did.
Because of a mother's unconditional love and refusal to get angry when he made a mistake, this little boy grew to believe in himself, to realize it was OK to make mistakes and to make major contributions to the world.e
Many of us did not get that kind of unconditional love when we were growing up. The fact is probably MOST of us didn't. But here's an idea for you.
Up until you are about 14 you can blame your parents for your hurt and your upset and your anger, but after that, it's your responsibility! It is your responsibility to open yourself to love. To be authentic and genuine so you can let it in when it is offered to you. To cultivate and nurture a relationship with Divine Love.
Charles Fillmore writes in Talks on Truth: "Love is a divine principle and man can know it in its purity by touching it at its fountainhead. There it is not tinged in any way by man's formative thought, but flows forth in a pure, pellucid stream of infinite ecstasy. It has no consciousness of good or evil, pure or impure, but pours itself out in great oceans of living magnetic power, to be used by whosoever will."f
These things, my friend, are our responsibilities! And these are the things that will dial down -- way, way down -- the anger response.
And, because we live in a world where we may not always be able to feel 100% unconditionally loved 100% of the time, we may still get angry!
IS ANGER EVER PRODUCTIVE
So the next question is . . . Is anger ever productive?
Well, that answer to that question is no and yes, depending on what we do with it!
Jesus got angry. In Matthew 21:12 & 18. Jesus not only got mad at the money changers in the templeg (which perhaps affected a positive change) but the next morning he zapped a fig tree because it wasn't bearing fruit even though it wasn't the season for fruith (perhaps not a positive change, at least for that tree!).
It is not productive when it manifests itself in the way a study released a year or so ago by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The study revealed that nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year.In addition, approximately eight million U.S. drivers have engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.The study also found that events precipitating violent incidents are often remarkably trivial and the people involved are often just ordinary citizens.
One of the authors of the study said: "People have been shot because they drove too slowly or played the radio too loud. But violent traffic disputes are rarely the result of a single incident. Rather, they seem to be the result of personal attitudes and the accumulation of stress in the motorist's life."i I'll add a lack of real love!
Just being angry will never solve the issue that's making you angry. But the physical cues of anger alert you that something needs to be done, and the way that you express your anger could lead to solving the problem.
For you, you may get angry when cars fly through a nearby intersection without stopping. You want them to be more aware of the children that walk and ride their bikes there. You could honk or flag down the offending cars to give them a piece of your mind, but sitting at the offending crosswalk, stewing over fast cars and waving your arms is not the most effective way to deal with your anger.
What might be effective, though, is working with the local police department to acquire better signage or a traffic light at the dangerous spot. This is an example of how getting angry can create positive change in society; larger examples of this include the civil rights movement and the women's suffrage movement.
Holmes said, let's be a people who are for something, and not against anything! So if your anger or frustration at something causes you to take action FOR something, then, yes, that anger was very, very productive!
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR ANGER
Finally, and most importantly, what can you do with your anger?!
Well, we know we don't want to hold on to it!
In the Science Of Mind it says: "When our minds are filled with thoughts of anger, hatred and resentment, we are pouring into our body poisons in the making. Too much of this disturbs the upbuilding of body tissues. But degenerative thoughts can be turned into creative, energizing, vitalizing ones. Anger can be turned into love, and the very power that has been destroying can be made to build up."j
And, I suspect your brain just said "that's all well and good, but how!? How do I turn it around? It's a habit inside of me. I don't even realize I'm doing it. I just automatically switch into it and then I also get angry with myself, so I add fuel to the fire. I just don't know how to stop it."
I'm going to throw out two wild ideas. One is to realize that what you need in that moment is love, the real deal. So get loved by expressing your anger to someone who can love you right in the middle of it who is NOT the person you are angry with!! Just as a heads up.
Because here's the deal about that . . . a great deal of damage is done to relationships when we express our anger at the person we are angry with. Do we ever really feel better? Is the relationship made better? Do we feel closer to the person? Do they feel closer and warm about fuzzy about us? I don't think so! But expressing your anger to someone else who can love in right in the middle of it is very, very helpful and powerful and healing!
The other one is to surrender it to the Divine, admitting that you may not know how to release your anger, but that you want to! You could even in that moment have a little conversation with God. It could go something like this: "God, I do not know how to get rid of this on my own. I've had it for years. But l know that You can help me change and transmute it. I know You will give me what I need."
God will give you exactly what you need in the moment if you will just accept the help, if you will believe that God knows what you need. You may be sitting there thinking about the anger you've had in the past. We've all had times of anger. Now you choose to get rid of it.
I ask you, this morning, to trust God enough in your life to give it up and permanently let it go. When we turn to God for help in the moment, it comes. We are promised that by the great Master Teacher Jesus who said: "And everything that you will ask in prayer believing, you shall receive."k
Anger will be transmuted inside of you.
Transmutation means it's like putting a log onto a fire. God uses it as fuel and energy for new good purposes. First of all, realize that God is a God of Love who will continually produce good in your life if you will allow it.
Charles Fillmore in Talks on Truth, wrote: ". . . the love of God must be felt in the heart. It cannot be described, and one who has not felt it can have no concept of it from the descriptions of others. But the more we talk about love, the stronger it grows in the consciousness, and if we persist in thinking loving thoughts and speaking loving words, we are sure to bring into our experience the feeling of that great love that is beyond description - the very love of God."l
Let it be your way...
aRobert Bly A Little Book on the Human Shadow
bErnest Holmes It's Up to You!, p. 54
cReal Love Greg Baer
dGreg Baer, Real Love, writes, p. 16
eSuccess Principles Jack Canfield, p. 107
fCharles Fillmore Talks on Truth p. 52
iAAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
jErnest Holmes Science Of Mind, p. 255
lCharles Fillmore Talks on Truth, p. 51