Monday, July 30, 2012

You Have Permission to Step Off the Anger Treadmill

I debated in high school. The experience has given me the ability to see both sides of an issue. A lot of times it feels like more of a curse than a blessing. But in the past few years I have noticed a trend. Anger. There is always something to be mad about. Last week it was Chik-fil-A. The week before that it was the US Olympic uniforms being made in China. A little before that it was Obamacare. Before that it fill in the blank. There's always going to be something that we don't agree with. Sometimes we are upset as a nation, sometimes our outrage splits down party lines. And for some reason we have come to the conclusion that the best response is anger.

I am now giving you permission to step off that treadmill. Next week there will be something else to get your panties in a bunch about. Heck, every commercial break during the Olympics is filled with negative political ads. There's nothing I love more when trying to cheer on my country in solidarity than to feel divided during the commercials. 

Hate and anger seem to be this two-way street that everyone walks down while loudly complaining that other people are on the road with them.

Technology is great, but it has left us quite desensitized in my opinion. Because of this, it seems that political leaders and media personnel (from all areas, TV, blogs, print) feel the need to often resort to stirring their followers up into a frenzy just to make them care about an issue. It's like, if we aren't foaming at the mouth, we won't call that congressman, boycott that restaraunt, go to that town hall meeting, etc. 

The other downfall of technology is that it gives people the opportunity to easily bash those they disagree with, with much more hate and vitriol than they probably would in person. I'm amazed at the number of people who feel inclined to respond to the little facebook notifications that my church puts out just asking people to talk about what their parents taught them or what brings them peace, with mocking and anger. What kind of person subscribes to a feed of an organization that they don't agree with? It's like we want to be angry. It's like we thrive on it and enjoy the thrill of that moment when we ball our fists and grind our teeth.

The problem is anger is exhausting.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said "If you aren't upset, you aren't paying attention." And maybe that's true. I used to be on the anger treadmill. Always upset about something. There's so much injustice, heartache, sadness, hate and evil in the world. It is too much for one person to really take in all the time. It isn't healthy. It affects our well-being and it affects my mothering when I am always angry, or upset, or feel slandered by an angry comment from someone who doesn't even know me but disagrees with something I believe.

It's okay to stay up with politics. It's good! But you don't have to respond with anger. Simply take a deep breath, remind yourself that politicians are human and as humans we all come from different backgrounds and will disagree and THAT' OKAY! Then DO SOMETHING. Calmly call your representative, or attend that town hall, donate to that cause, change a habit, swear off that restaraunt, or proudly go to that restaurant. Whatever it is, do it, and leave it at that. Don't get in comment fights on the internet. For your sanity, I suggest never reading the comments anyways.

Sometimes, it seems there is nothing we can do to change or help the situation that leaves us angry and upset.  Or, what little we've done doesn't seem to be enough. I think those are the times when we feel the need to fight with others about it, or get angry about it, in hopes that it will make us feel more powerful against the situation or like we are making a bigger difference. We aren't. You aren't. It's not worth it. 

You can't fix everything. But you can do your best to improve your corner of the world. And I mean the physical world, not your corner of the virtual world. Love your neighbor, visit the sickly woman down the street, give to the homeless shelter. Is it helping the world find Kony? No. But is it making a difference? Yes. A lot more than getting mad about what a terrible person whoever is this week's person-to-hate and stewing about it all night.

Show your children that happiness and change come through action, kindness, and love. Hate and anger only rip us apart and keep us up at night.