On Loving While Angry
The Synchroblog topic this month is on loving our enemies. I look forward to the reflections and stories on such a key part of our calling as follower's of Jesus! Join me in reading through the list of posts this month, which I have included at the bottom of this post, my own contribution.
If you backtrack through my blog posts, you will find many posts about Jesus' commands and parables instructing us to love each other, the stranger, and our enemies. He instructs us to do this through actual actions that meet the specific needs of the people we encounter, and not just through expressing an ideology that talks about doing that. He says that we have eternal consequences based on how effectively we actually do what we claim we do, rather than just saying the right things about it.
Unfortunately, we all build up our own ideas about the best way to live so that we feel safe and righteous or at least self-justified in our selfishness, and withdraw into that ideology and feel kinship with those who show in their words and actions that they are "with us" in that. This is as true for progressives as it is for conservatives. It is as true for the politically disengaged as it is for political activists. And it is especially true for those who have found loving groups of friends, family, and members of a faith community. We take comfort in knowing that we believe the right things and have aligned ourselves with the right people for our own spiritual well-being and for the future of humanity as God brings God's kingdom ... although we may express that in much more secular terms.
The deliberate practice of "loving while angry" is an antidote to the ways our different ideological and sociological alliances can blind us to real love of our enemies. If I watch my own emotions and actions for signs of anger, hurt, contempt, or even just the tendency to see people as their role rather than as real persons (whether "the grocery clerk "or "my mom"), I can use those signs as a spur to find a way to both really listen and to take real action on behalf of that person's well-being.
In practice for me this involves less introspection than it sounds like it might, and more awareness of others than "random acts of kindness" encourages. It is a cultivation of the habit of responding to each twinge of dislike or pain or anger or frustration with the question "What might that person need from me?" It is the cultivation of prayer in asking God what that person needs from me. It is the cultivation of margins in my own time and attention and money so that I can afford to pay attention and give time or other resources. And it is the practice of actual empathetic conversation, in which I let my own dislike or pain or disagreement be the very trigger that let's me remember to bracket that reaction, pray for understanding of both my reaction and of that of the other, and then reach out to converse and listen and maybe even be changed.
This practice is not comforting. It pushes me out of safety into war zones regularly, and it breaks the artificial bonds of alignment with others through relationship or sociological circumstance or ideology. Much of our shared life is built on the unwritten rules of any subculture.
But this practice does give me the spiritual workout I need to grow strong and to stay strong, and it does allow me to cultivate a practice of the presence of God.
My exhortation to you is this: resolve to practice "loving while angry", and start developing the habit of approaching all your negative emotions head-on as opportunities for prayer and service and healing. You will be amazed at the way you also learn to love and care for the real person God created in YOU as you become an agent of love to your enemies and your friends and to the stranger.
This month's posts in the February Synchroblog are: