The Ball of Anger
Of all the things Jesus ever said the most radical had to be ‘Love your enemy’. The Jews were a bloodthirsty race that believed themselves to be the chosen ones and who had a divine mandate not just to hate but to obliterate their enemies. We can still see it in the Israel of today in their despicable treatment of the Palestinians. That statement alone was more than enough to have him crucified. Even the part of loving their Palestinian neighbor hasn’t yet found a hearing let alone loving the enemy.
Bearing hatred towards anyone is a serious business. It’s a sure way of allowing that person to control us. The person we feel ill-will towards ends up occupying rent frees pace in our head. The one we hate is the one we think most about. To hate is to be angry and that anger seeks expression. We want to find a way to throw it at that person but in the meantime the question is what is it doing to ourselves?
The Buddha once said that anger is like a burning ball that we hold in out hand and while we are waiting for the right opportunity to throw it at the other its burning away at our own flesh. So what might that ball of anger look like and how might it be expressed in a piece of wood. This little piece is quite complex and I just finished it last week. While its mostly red representing anger on the outside it contains a lot of other colors. Inside is a six pointed star in blue and that is created inside another sphere that is green.
Imagine someone you are angry with and this burning ball of anger is what I am holding in my hand. Consider the pain I am causing myself. Someone has said that, ‘Anger is the hurt that I inflict on myself because of someone else’s mistake’. This is the message of the OT where it says if you fail to confront someone for something unjust you are taking their sin upon yourself. So often we don’t have the courage to say to someone face to face how we feel but then we say it indirectly by cutting their socks off when we talk to someone else. In other words we talk behind their back.
This is probably the greatest and most destructive sin in any community, to speak behind someone’s back what we are not prepared to say to his or her face. A gossip is someone with an acute sense of rumor and so we say things that deep down we hope will get legs. We make the balls that we hope someone else will throw. This is something that I have experienced all my life; in fact it seems to be part of my job. Someone comes with a grievance about someone else and expects me to reprimand that person. I usually reply, ‘but this is your ball so why do you need me to throw it’? How often have I heard, ‘so and so is annoyed with you about a something but she won’t say it herself.’ To such a statement I am inclined to say, ‘If he or she hasn’t the courage to say it, what concern is it of yours, unless you also feel the same way and are just using the other to reinforce your own position?’
When we blame we complain but what are we actually doing? We are throwing this ball away. Now suppose we were to turn it towards ourselves we would find that this ball is very interesting and full of creativity. What I was so willing to dump on someone else is quite valuable to myself. This is where my anger can become so creative if only I could stop the blame game and look at it for what it is. Anger and creativity are just two sides of the same coin and if my creativity feels blocked it’s usually because I am using my anger in the wrong way. Anger in itself is not bad but its how I use it that gets me into trouble. To use it properly is to do something creative with all the energy it contains.
Finally when Jesus says ‘Be you perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect’ we often thought that he was speaking about some kind of moral perfection. That kind of perfection is only for the gods and far beyond the reach of us humans. In fact the ones who think they are most perfect in that narrow sense are usually most judgmental, very intolerant and perfectly boring. A broader understanding would be to hear it as our call not to be morally perfect but to be perfectly loving and not allow anything or anyone to block that capacity. Like the acorn that falls from the great oak it has the potential to become an oak tree itself so we have a god like potential to become like the loving God who made us.
At a basic level even if we don’t always know what to do in certain situations, if we do what appears to be the most loving thing we are then able to live with ourselves whatever the outcome. Is when we begin to throw balls and engage in the blame game that we get into difficulty.