Outrage: How I keep this useless emotion from ruining my life, my relationships, and my faith​

Outrage. Have you had enough?

I have.

If you enjoy being angry all day every day, move along, please.

If you’re sick and tired of turning over your emotions to those not like you and me, please keep reading.

What makes me mad, you ask?

I’m furious that even one liberal American is shaming a young man shot in the leg Sunday night because he chose to stand when the President of the United States entered his hospital room.

I’m beyond frustrated that even one conservative American point uses the comments of a former CBS employee as evidence that “all” liberals are the enemy of “all” conservatives.

But I make a choice every time I read stories like this.

I make a choice every time I see friends on social media contribute to both sides of the political mess in our nation by posting mindless memes and parrot the talking points of billion dollar lobby budgets constructed to protect their power and money, regardless of how their advocacies impact Americans and the future of our great nation.

Here’s my range of choices:

  1. Cruise on past the train wreck disguised as “debate.”
  2. Decide that, perhaps, I can engage by asking questions or offering context in kindness.
  3. Attack, armed with outrage and fueled by moral indignation.

I’ll further expound on these three choices in a moment.

First, though, an explanation of why there will be no Reboots Roundup on this Friday.

Why no Reboots Roundup today

All week, as is my recent custom, I’ve monitored the most popular stories on the web featuring keywords like, “repurpose,” “comeback,” and “reboot.”

This week, though, attempting to piece together a composite of features on how to recycle plastic bottles and various types of trash seems, well, tone deaf.

The interwebs – and our hearts – are filled with stories of horror, redemption, and the political landscape surrounding events in Las Vegas.

And, in my opinion, this is as it should be.

Thousands are mourning the loss of loved ones who will never draw another breath.

The world – and our nation – are worse off from the loss of at least 58 people who were celebrating life, music, and freedom Sunday night.

God’s “Will?” Um, I don’t think so.

I am a woman of faith, but I do not – I repeat, I do not – see this unconscionable act of violence as “God’s Will.”

I see this as the act of a sick, sad human being.

We’ll never know why.

We can guess.

We can speculate.

We can blame mental illness.

We can blame evil.

But I will not give credence to the notion that God “caused” the massacre, or that he ever condones mass killings.

Here’s what I do believe about my Creator.

I believe He permits tragedy. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Nor can anyone else – even the most celebrated theologians can only speculate about how God can bring good out of any monumental tragedy.

Anyone who says they can explain God?

Run from them. As quickly as you can. They’re either “playing” you for a fool, or they’re mixed up about who God is.

That’s my opinion. I could be wrong.

I believe God can bring good out of this – and any other – monumental tragedy.

Even as the perpetrator reminds us there is evil and sickness in the world, there are many more stories of humanity at its finest.

We’ve seen stories of strangers risking their own lives to render medical attention and shielding victims on the ground from being riddled with more bullets than were already causing blood loss.

Where’s the Reboot – nation or self?

Make no mistake about it; I believe – as do most Americans – that our nation is in desperate need of a reboot.

Both political parties are broken, rendering our government a disaster.

Yes, I said disaster.

Meaning no disrespect or insensitivity to Americans in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico who remain homeless and struggling to find a starting point for starting over.

But you know what?

We’re broken, too.

You and I.

We spend way too much time listening to corporate television telling us why we should fear “the other side.” How they’re destroying our way of life.

We buy into the fear.

We buy into the “them” or “us.”

We buy into the notion that we – you and I – have the expertise to untangle complex sociological and political issues.

Just because we’re entitled to an opinion because we’re Americans?.

Just because we are intelligent enough that – with enough study – we could eventually come to our own conclusions about a myriad of topics?

Doesn’t mean it is helpful for us to share publicly, at the risk of relationships or our own wellbeing.

Emotion.

Outrage.

Moral indignation.

These things do not make us experts on matters that vex and befuddle women and men who’ve spent their entire adult lives studying narrow ranges of issues.

And it certainly doesn’t mean that it is wise or helpful for us to use our social media megaphones to further separate us from those we love who belong in the camp belonging to “the bad side.”

My friends, our nation will not commence a reboot when party X is in control or when person Y is out of Congress, or person Z is president.

The power of a reboot lies within each of us.

And it begins with a tiny thing.

A behavior change.

Just one.

Choosing to Show Outrage the Door

Now, let’s go back to my choices when confronted with friends, loved ones, and people I respect who are – I believe – unknowingly fanning the flames that will destroy the United States.

I do not believe these people are unAmerican, nor do I think they’re ignorant or stupid.

They – and we – are emotionally exhausted.

We are afraid.

We are hurting.

And?

We have access to distractions that make it much easier to avoid these emotions than to confront them and root them out of our lives.

By expressing our outrage and righteous indignation publicly, are words that wound others indiscriminately.

And we don’t care.

We say we “hope” we’ve inflicted pain on others that we’re feeling, too.

This is tough to write.

Know why?

I’ve been that person.

And I could be again.

This afternoon.

Tomorrow.

Anytime.

And I fear that.

I fear myself, my own ability to use words to inflict harm on others.

My choices

Given the opportunity to confront outrage with outrage, I have at least three options.

  1. Attack, armed with outrage and fueled by moral indignation.
  2. Cruise on past the train wreck disguised as “debate.”
  3. Decide that, perhaps, I can engage by asking questions or offering context in kindness.

Attack

 

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Attacking is the easiest, it’s the most tempting, and it’s the most satisfying – for about 3 hours. Then guilt and shame set in. I realize, sometimes weeks later, that my words have permanently altered my relationships with people I value. In the long run, Thing 1 is the most dangerous and damaging choice I can make when my own outrage is triggered.

Fire my words at a private journal – instead of social media

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Yes, I’m aware of the juxtaposition of using the above gif when mentioning the mass shootings in Vegas. If you’re uncomfortable with guns, this will make you uncomfortable. But I pray that it will not make you feel unsafe here. If you are comfortable around guns, and vigorously defend gun rights without actually considering the consequences or refuse to even discuss regulatory options, you are welcome to stop reading now, because you’re not ready to consider the impact of your own words on others. And that’s ok. I just don’t want to waste your time.

Private journaling – for me – is the safest and, perhaps, most sane choice.

By venting in a safe place, I’m less tempted to vent in public.

When I write at least 250 words every day, it’s as if I’m firing my words into ballistics gel. My words find a place to go without inflicting harm on living, breathing humans.

When I schedule and limit social media time to specific objectives, I can better control my emotions and navigate the anger, misinformation, and sorrow that fills my Facebook feeds.

Social media isn’t – for me – an appropriate distraction from worry. It triggers fear and anxiety when I don’t have bumper guards in place for how I utilize these activities in my life.

Ask questions first

 

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Asking questions may be the most dangerous for me if I’m not in a proper frame of mind.

This activity requires me to be rested and humble and plugged in with my Creator. Before I engage someone, I try to have a plan, based on these questions I ask myself:

  1. What do I hope to accomplish by inserting myself?
  2. Can I learn something about the topic or the emotion behind the other person’s statement?
  3. What’s my exit strategy?

“Exit strategy” for me is about knowing before I engage that after 3 or 4 exchanges, I may need to explain that emotion and frustration are about to overwhelm my brain and my heart, that I value the person and the relationship. So it’s time to terminate the dialogue.

Here’s the thing

I don’t get to decide what trips my trigger.

My emotions are my emotions.

How I feel is how I feel.

What I do control is my reaction to those emotions.

You know what else I control?

Whether or not I let corporate titans and lobby groups have complete, total, and unfettered access to my emotions.

Several years ago, I got tired of burning energy on moral outrage and righteous indignation.

Here’s what I did – and still do – to protect my soul from greed and anger and all the things that make it difficult for me to fulfill Christ’s command that we love one another.

I’m not Jesus. You ain’t either.

An aside about that for those of us who follow Jesus.

There are no exclusions to the command that we love one another.

We don’t get to decide who we don’t love because they make us uncomfortable or afraid or angry, or because we are outraged by their actions that are an affront to our own sense of morality.

Let’s that that one more step.

Scripture shows us – over and over again – about Jesus’ encounters with women and men whose actions defied His teachings. In every instance, Jesus loved them. Yes, He rebuked, but He is God’s Son.

You and I are not.

Let me just recommend – sister to sister and brother – skip the rebuke when loving others.

We aren’t as plugged into the souls and minds of others as our Savior was.

How I Cope

Here’s a partial list of things I do to protect my soul from righteous indignation and moral outrage.

  • Write at least 250 words each day.
  • Turn off the 24-hour news. For a week. All of it. I refuse to give big media control over my emotions.
  • Digital devices go into in airplane mode for at least an hour a day.
  • Turn off push notifications from news apps on my phone.
  • Better yet, delete news apps and social media apps, forcing me to confront my own thoughts in a doctor’s office waiting room.
  • Be kind to one person. Every day. Then write about the experience. How I felt, what the person said, how she reacted. I’m not very good at this one, but I’m working on it.
  • Ask at least one person each day (ok, I actually do this 3x/week) the following questions – and record their responses:
    • What’s one thing in your life that you do every day that makes you a better person?
    • What’s your biggest daily struggle – in life or work?
    • How can I be of service to you?

Exhausted by outrage? Kick it to the curb.

Repair one broken thing in your life.

Be kind to someone else every day.

Confront your own story, your past, and the things you’ve done that bring you shame and sorrow.

Forgive those who have harmed you.

Forgive yourself.

And I believe that our nation will begin to heal.

We cannot bring back the lives of those lost Sunday night in Las Vegas.

But we can love by extending kindness and grace, even when it’s uncomfortable for us to do so.

We can choose to not inflict further pain on those who are suffering from profound loss, grief, and sorrow.

Let the man stand for the President of the United States. A shooting victim’s respect for the United States – his respect for President Trump – doesn’t make him unworthy of the concern, respect, and empathy for Americans who find the man in the White House to be objectionable. If you’re disappointed, that’s how you feel. But it doesn’t help him to know how you feel. Hush.

Don’t let the men who kneel on Sundays rob you of your joy. Turn off the TV. Get outside yourself in into the lives of people who aren’t like you.

Tell yourself to stop judging whether or not you think someone’s intentions are noble.

You’re not Jesus. You can’t see inside their hearts.

Maybe none of this “saves” our nation.

But you know what?

One of these things – practiced regularly – can change you.

These habits are changing me. Imperfectly.

I botch all of these on a regular basis, but I keep working, keep practicing. Outrage provokes me every few weeks instead of multiple times a day now.

Are you tired of the outrage?

If you commit to at least one behavior change – listed above or something you want to change about yourself – will you let me know?

Tell me this, too.

What’s one thing in your life that brings you peace?

What’s something that is a constant struggle for you in life or work?

How can I help you in that area of struggle?

Let me know, would you?

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