Lately, I feel like I’m undergoing some significant spiritual changes.  Or maybe I’m just more aware of it.  One of the toughest emotions that I’ve had to deal with in my spirit is anger.  At first one might be naive to think that lot’s of meditation and/or prayer is the answer.  But in the end it all can start to feel more like anger denial or suppression.

I think maybe for me my difficulty with anger is that I don’t naturally like to express it. Expressing anger, at least direct expression, is confrontational.  It tends to intimidate others and tends to evoke a defensive response.  And that defensive response can come back to intimidate and make me feel tense and uncomfortable.  But in the end anger is natural.

I remember a few years ago listening to a lecture on spirituality and mental health. There was mention of Viktor Frankl and the a book “Man’s Search for Meaning” which described how Holocaust survivor observed that those that could retain sense of purpose and meaning out of suffering tended to survive, those who could not tended to lose the will to live and perished. This ability to discover and retain purpose and meaning especially under adverse times, was termed “Radical Acceptance”  This was the same thread of thought put out in the book “Radical Acceptance,” a very popular book by Tara Brach who is a regarded Bhuddist meditation teacher.  So in Radical Acceptance it’s much about a way to just diffuse the insult, injury, or hurt behind the anger.  And so the direct expression of anger seems is not the ideal way.

Following in line with “Radical Acceptance” there’s a slew of other “Radical xxxx” titles: Radical Foregiveness by Colin Tipping, Radical Grace by  Richard Rohr, Radical Self-Acceptance by Tara Brach, Radical Judaism, Radical Leap, Radical Hope, Radical Amazement, Radical Womanhood, Radical Evolution …

There’s one book that directly addresses anger: Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton. Brad touts always being direct and honest in times of anger.  Raise your voice, yell, use profanity, even scream at who ever you’re angry with and let that person do the same back.  Brad touts that to the extent we hold back our expression of anger, it eventually leads to more insidious or even violent behavior.  So if you think someone is fat and ugly, don’t hold back and tell them “I think you are fat and ugly” Don’t be afraid to be looked as an insensitive jerk, because in the end everyone will respect you for always being direct, never hiding things and you’ll be free of tension and fear because you’re always just release it right away. Radical Honesty is a very successful book.

But then there’s the another very successful book Radical Foregiveness which seems to go a bit more like Radical Acceptance, a bit contrary to Radical Honesty.  That the anger that you feel arises from a situation that that touches on a pain, and triggers a defensive response of “I will take this no more, that’s enough, I’m sick and tired of this, this stops now, I am fed up, back off, stay away, DO NOT mess with me …”  And that situation has a purpose and meaning.  Seek to understand why.  This is termed Radical Acceptance which is the foundation of the Radical Foregiveness in anger provoking situations.

So for me there’s an element of both Radical Honesty and Radical Foregiveness that rings a truth when it comes to Anger.  I think there are times that direct expression of Anger is good. But I also believe in the power of Radical Foregiveness.  And so this is where my states of confusion arise.

I once wrote a list of “koans” and spiritual truths for myself.  I’ve taped it up on my office wall and it’s been up for about 15 years.  One statement says:

“All things are true.  Criticize not how a statement is wrong, but rather seek to understand the why and how a statement becomes true. …”

Life is non-linear. Contradictory things can be simultaneously true. And so at least in terms of anger I seek to be both very honest about how I feel but at the same time very accepting and so foregiving.

There’s a famous statement associated with Jesus.  It goes something like if someone slaps you on the side of the face and knocks you down, just get right back up and turn the cheek so they can slap you on the other side if they want.  So I guess a mixture of Radical Honesty and Radical Foregiveness would be to get back up and scream in the persons face “OUCH! What #$#(#?! was that #$&#(&$( for?!! You are such a (&(&*#$(& jerk and I feel like (&*(&&*(& your face, while simultaneously having inner thoughts of what was the purpose of this, I am learning something from this, thank you for hitting me because I really needed a wake up call.  But that’s probably only path out of an infinite number of paths of how thinks might play out.  I think the actual path in response to that slap in the face is rather irrelevant, it’s the inner struggle that arises within in you and how you choose to give attention or ignore that inner struggle that is relevant.

In reality it’s probably about the struggle between many things you believe in, even though at times they seem contrary.  And so it doesn’t matter so much which truth you settle more upon, but that you can recognize the truth in all, and be willing to struggle in the confusion and understand it’s OK. In different times, in different places, in different circumstances where you settle will be different and it can be inconsistent and you may look like a hypocrite but it’s alright, it’s OK.

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