Compassionate Anger – how to bring love (and power) back into the conversation

By March 18, 2017 No Comments

UnknownA few days ago, a Facebook friend stirred up an online hornet’s nest when she shared an article protesting the inclusion of a gay character on the movie Beauty and the Beast.  She very clearly agreed with the article’s position and it was only seconds before her punishment would commence.

With a vigor and speed so typical of social media, she was attacked and insulted in a spew of angry  and shockingly cruel comments by her Facebook “friends”.

To settle the question you may need answered before you can openly read what I have to say:  No, I don’t agree with her position.  Not at all.   I don’t see gay romance as something dirty from which our children should be protected.  I am eager for our world to leave the dark ages behind and accept and embrace our diversity.  I look forward to the day when it will not be suggested or assumed that my son is going to be a “lady killer” one day.  I look forward to the day when the majority of us will act in humility and accept that none of us is fit to be the ultimate authority over the whole of humanity.  We each have our own experience and it’s insanity to presume we know best for each other.

With that said, I am far more horrified by the anger and cruelty directed her way.  I do not believe anger and cruelty have any power to effect let alone inspire change…it only creates a larger divide.  History has proven that over and over and over and over again…ugh!!

Consider the irony that exists when someone behaves so abhorrently in the name of standing up for something he/she/they feel is “right behavior.”   In this example, those who were sticking up for gay rights thought nothing of delivering low blows to someone who dared to think differently from them.  Instead of expressing their opinion in a way that she could hear, they went straight to the place where all she had left to do was try to defend herself.  They kicked so hard that all she could do was attempt to push back.  Do you think there is any possible chance she has opened up to their opinions?  Absolutely not.  How could she when all she could feel was the negativity and mean-spirited comments sent her way?   All this Facebook rant accomplished was making both sides angrier and more intolerant in their respective positions…Powerful? I think not.

What a sad occurrence that in the name of social justice, people make the division even worse…guaranteeing even more of the injustices they had hoped to change. Consider that this behavior not only doesn’t help make a difference, it may actually make it worse!  How frightening is that?

So this brings us back to the gazillion dollar question…What IS the best way?

In my opinion the best way is to utilize what is known as Compassionate Anger.  As I understand His Holiness The Dalai Lama to have explained it, compassionate anger is anger towards the injustice without desire to cause harm to the actual person expressing it.  He has said that anger can be a powerful and motivating force.  YES!  We all NEED to be strong in doing what we think is right; most especially in the name of helping one another…HOWEVER, anger without compassion is WEAK!  Yes, I know that seems counterintuitive, but if you really want to make a change, you must do it in a way that has a chance of it.

So the idea is yes, be mad at the injustice.  Be pissed off!  Yet be smart about it and set aside your personal desire to cause pain to the person who is different than you.  Don’t misplace your desire to help many with your desire to satisfy a personal need to hurt someone.

What could that have looked like in the example of my apparently anti-gay Facebook Friend?  Comments with integrity would have been far more powerful..or even a private message.  Something in the neighborhood of, “Hey, I respect we may see the world differently, but I don’t feel good about sharing online community with someone who appears to be anti-Gay. I want to raise my child to respect diversity.”  Or, “I do support this movie because I want my kid to be raised to know that romance isn’t just for a heterosexual man or woman (or in this case, a hetero-beast and woman…but I digress).”  Or, “Hey, these comments are hurtful, which is why I need to tell you I am uncomfortable being your Facebook friend.”  Open up the conversation.  Doesn’t mean you will win someone over to your side, but at least you won’t be pushing them further into their beliefs (isn’t that the greater concern here?).

Remember, people learn by your example – NEVER by your words.  Shine in your brightness, your equanimity, your love, your compassion…let them come to you in wonderment…to see how it is you came to be the way you are.  THAT will be the only chance we ever have.  Those who are hardened into their beliefs must see the light before they can believe other than the darkness.  Those who are rigid in their ways must experience tenderness before they may believe it is safe.

Be the light.  Be a force.  Be angry, but infuse it with a powerful dose of compassion…it’s truly our only hope for humanity.