By Justin Haley Phillips
My boyfriend showed me a message on his phone this morning. He has that fancy thing that translates a voicemail into text, and this message was from the so-called “IRS,” threatening to put out a warrant for his arrest.
My editor brain got there first.
“Scammers. There’s no way the real IRS would phrase things like this. It’s so unprofessional.” Then my heart caught up, and then came the rage.
Rage at people who purposefully seek to mislead others.
People whose primary tool is fear.
People who terrorize and manipulate to get what they want.
So there I am, sitting at the kitchen table, full of rage at faceless people that I cannot connect with, wanting to punch them all in the face and throttle them and get them to tell me why they lacked compassion for their fellow human beings…and unable to channel that rage in any direction beyond curiosity and acknowledgement as I sip my coffee.
Now, I’m terrible with anger.
It doesn’t matter if it’s mine or if it is another person’s. Anger makes me uncomfortable. I am a natural peacemaker and my childhood, while hardly traumatic, was an obedient one. There were rules to follow and I followed them. I still do. I refuse to drive over the yellow lines in parking lots, for example. And to this day I tend to panic at the thought of letting someone down because I don’t want them to be angry with me.
As for my own anger, I have never learned to process it.
I always thought it was a skill—a talent—to find the silver lining in everything. I prided myself on my natural ability to cope in this way.
Years ago I was attending a hockey game with friends and the people sitting behind us were drunk and rowdy. One of the young men spilled their strawberry daiquiri on me and, as their horrified girlfriend offered me her sweater to clean up I can remember thinking, “I’m glad it was me, because that really could have ruined someone’s night, or someone else might have gotten really angry when it was just an honest mistake.”
I was actually grateful that it had happened to me!
And at the time, I felt that my reaction was beautiful. In truth, it was a way of avoiding feeling angry. This has been a theme in my life. I believed that if I were to express anger it would upset the status quo. It would intrude upon others’ sense of peace.
Heaven forbid I intrude upon anyone else!
It never occurred to me that, by absorbing any blame and smiling the transgressions away, I was not only telling the offenders that their behavior was acceptable, but I was trampling all over my own peace as though it didn’t even matter.
Why didn’t I matter?
So I am proud of my ability to sit with my anger this morning, rather than silver-lining it into oblivion. I begin to wonder what I can do to engage these bastards in battle.
How do I find them? How can I conquer them? Or do I bother giving them my energy?
Maybe I simply continue living my own example, shining my light and driving out what shadows I can while remaining in my truth. Is that enough? What then?
Where does rage meet peace? Where does anger meet compassion?
I imagine that the key lies in balance. I decide, as the last of my coffee flows past my lips, not to actively seek out these modern-day pirates. It is not in my nature to go looking for a fight. I will, however, stand strong when faced with such situations in the future. I will fight when the opportunity presents itself, and I will do so with honor, with logic, and even compassion.
There it is. My missing link.
This is the connection that allows me to be both peace-maker and warrior, filled with both love and fury:
I will allow compassion to be the fuel for my rage.
Compassion for the abused.
Compassion for the manipulated.
Compassion for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Compassion for a world filled with pain.
And above all…compassion for myself.
Justin Haley Phillips is a free spirit, an adventurer, a nerd, a people-loving introvert and, above all, a writer. Her purpose with words has always been to express herself with the intention of letting others know they are not alone. She has loved and lost, fought and failed, but always gets back up again, fiercer than ever! Haley can be found in libraries, on road trips, staring at the sky, leaving behind sticky notes with positive affirmations on them, or curled up with a cuppa and a good book.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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