“All passion is founded on pain, grown through risk, and marked by the decisions we make in the face of tragedy. Tragedy introduces us to ourselves, to our deepest passions, to what it is that receives either our yes or our no.”
-Dan Allender, To Be Told
So I currently have a friend studying for her MA in counseling at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. And since we love discussing everything from Lost theories to philosophical and biblical debates, I’m pretty much getting a free, second-hand education every time we talk on the phone. It’s really quite wonderful. One of my friend’s teachers is the (rather profound) Dan Allender—a renowned Christian therapist and author of The Wounded Heart. Allender’s focus is on sexual abuse and trauma recovery. I’ve watched several of his interviews and keynotes, at the prompting of my friend, and I’ve certainly not been disappointed. Start here and here if you’re interested. What this man has to say is not only thought-provoking, but comforting.
Recently, my friend and I have discussed the question of anger, and its purpose in our lives. I, like many people, have struggled with anger—seeing it as a negative emotion to be squashed as soon as possible. Anger is something toxic and dangerous, an emotion we should avoid. We do exercises to quell it, count to ten, practice yoga, breathe and breathe and breathe. But what if there is more to anger? What if there is a guide, a map, within the fury? What if your anger is telling you something?
Do an experiment with me. Think about the world we live in. Think about your daily commute, the news you watch, the places you’ve been, the heartache you’ve witnessed and experienced. What upsets you? What makes you stand up, a scream building in your gut, a rage so intense it feels like being stranded in a storm?
For some it could be pretty literal. After doing this experiment, I found my rage building over issues like transphobia, racism, and sexism. I start screaming about privilege, about the pain others experience, of not being able to know the heart of someone else’s struggles. I get riled up about injustice.
You, for example, might find something less literal. Does it infuriate you when someone is dishonest? When people take advantage of you or others? When people manipulate? Does it break your heart to see cancer, rape, violence, the devastation of drugs?
“For each of us, there is a problem in this world that is meant to first bring us to tears and intensify our anger and then bring joy to our soul when it is even temporarily subdued.”
What makes you angry? What is calling you, from deep within, to right the wrongs? What is your narrative? What pain and heartache have brought you to this moment, this person, this self? Use your anger, let it guide you to your passion, your suffering. Let yourself be led by your rage.
You won’t be disappointed.
“Our deepest dreams are always about righting wrong and growing good. It’s that simple. What wrong are you meant to stop? What good are you uniquely designed to grow? We are not meant to be happy when we reach a personal goal unless that dream is attached to the greater good of others.”