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Anger and anxiety are states of mind I actively avoid. They are most unattractive to me in other people and a source of shame for me when I find myself harboring them. But lately I am angry and anxious. Perhaps I have been paying too much attention to current events, but I just can’t seem to help myself. At first, I thought I might be projecting some personal stuff into these emotions, but I am not currently angry and anxious about any personal matters and haven’t been for some time. Yes, it is these current events that are keeping me steamed and uptight.
The plight of the Ukrainians has broken my heart. I could volunteer to be Putin’s assassin. No, that’s not so good. Better, I should spend myself working with the refugees in Poland. But, short of not being realistically available for either, I’ll just fret. The myriad complications of resounding intervention are simultaneously reasonable and unnerving. Then, for me, there seems to always be a mean-spirited, intemperate gaggle of minor voices seeping out of every seat of power in our land. There is way too much political pornography to pervert the minds and inflame the emotions of superstitious and ill-informed folks. This irks and agitates me. If you are with me in this, then what are we to do?
So much is beyond our control except for the well-being of our inner selves, perhaps our souls. As the familiar hymn goes, “It is well with my soul”. I also summon the hymnody of the Reverends Lennon, Simon, and Garfunkle. “Let it Be” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” are helpful. When I slip into the high cotton of soulful music, I consider, “Be Thou My Vision”. The Bible can be good. I especially recommend the Beatitudes of Jesus for the angry and anxious soul. I call them the beatitude attitudes. Some of the Psalms can be helpful, but avoid the ones that are angry and anxious, the ones the preacher avoids.
Merely not wanting to be angry and anxious is not enough to mitigate them. Something needs to take their place. I suggest three antidotes: calm expectancy, emotional dignity, and deeper serenity. Calm expectancy is better than hope, which is a misunderstood and over used word. Hope too often means just wishful or magical thinking. Calm expectancy is watchfulness for whatever may happen with the confidence that your response will be at least adequate to meet the needs of the day. Calm expectancy breeds emotional dignity. Emotional dignity is a composure of being which endeavors to respond moreso than react to whatever is going on, good or bad. Emotional dignity avoids flippancy and any humor at the cost of another’s dignity. Emotional dignity has no need to be the authority unless authority is specifically called upon. Saint Paul speaks of emotional dignity in Romans 12 and Philippians 4. (Even non-Christians are able to get something there and the many sub-Christians among us especially should.) Finally, deeper growing serenity dispels anger and anxiety. Consider the wisdom of twelve step programs and the famous “Serenity Prayer.” Just taking a deep breath and being quiet for a half hour does wonders for the anxious soul. These are three helpful pathways for us angry and anxious folks.
Nonetheless, I need to work on my anger and anxiety, especially with current events stateside and abroad.