I used to be the kind of person about whom people said “so young, and yet so cynical!” and I would quietly fill with pride, because I believed that dissatisfaction was a sign of sophistication and negativity a hallmark of erudition.
I’m still critical – sometimes justified, sometimes not – but that crust of cynicism has fallen away. I have learned what deserves my ongoing outrage and what should be let go. I believe I can critique the world without hating it. I work day by day to cultivate a heart marked by love and forgiveness.
This takes discernment, as there are times when letting go of anger is not the right response. When I see racism, sexism, unfairness, or injustice it is good that my anger lifts me off the ground. That is a natural response to such a perversion of how the world should be. Our entire being should revolt against systems that hurt our fellow human beings.
But as I watch American society work out recent issues in the news – rape crises, police brutality, terrible violence – I see more than a desire for a just society. I see people being rotten and vindictive. I see name-calling and painting all members of certain groups with a very wide brush. At times I am guilty of this too. This is the side of anger that I keep learning to let go. No group is all bad. No person is all bad.
One of the most shocking discoveries I made in young adulthood was that I was absolutely incapable of holding a grudge. Even if I felt wounded, even if someone had undermined me or attacked me, if we happened to have a pleasant interaction I would be back in neutral, if not friendly with them again. I had always thought of myself as a tough person.
This is a challenge, yes? We identify coldness with toughness, and we try out sounding tough by expressing nasty opinions about other people. In certain environments (for example, social media), a cruel bon mot is highly rewarded. So we keep ourselves riled up, hoping for the next opportunity to demonstrate our worldliness by our anger and hatred.
That’s not who I want to be. I want to keep shedding the nastiness and tilling the soil of peace. If that means losing some of my edge, I can live with that.
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:13-14
I’ll be signing off until after the holiday. Prayers for peace for all of you this Christmas and always.