Where's the Space Between Anger and Apathy?
Friday, May 10, 2013Tweet
Lately it seems as if my well of blog post ideas -- indeed, the motivation to blog itself -- has been slowly drying up. In trying to figure out why that was, I was reflecting back on those moments when I was most inspired or motivated to blog, and I realized what the missing ingredient was.
I'm not that angry.
My most passionate and (I think) eloquent posts have been about things I'm ticked off about. Problems I see within the church, within American culture, or simply within day-to-day interactions with people. I'm prompted to write because I want to see change, or at the very least, I want to help other people consider a different way of thinking about things. Or I want to give people straightforward, logical arguments they can make against problematic rhetoric or twisted reasoning people use to cling to the status quo.
Slowly but surely, though, I've been isolating myself from the things that make me angry, as part of my larger attempts to have a happier and more peaceful life.
I've hidden most people from my Facebook newsfeed except for those whose opinions I value most -- not necessarily those I agree with, but those who challenge me in ways that make sense and rely on logic and statistics. Not the people who piss me off or who post lots of inflammatory rhetoric or false information. (This also prevents me from being that person always sighing and linking people to Snopes, now that I've decided I don't need to be everyone's teacher.)
I've also -- partly to minimize my time spent on online distractions, but also to avoid getting worked up -- stopped clicking on links that show up in my Twitter feed accompanied by messages like, "THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY" and "THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THIS."
I've worked on spending more time with the people whose company I enjoy, and less time with people who stress me out or frustrate me. I left the job that was making me miserable and am trying to be careful that my next job will be in a good environment.
There are a lot of good things to be said about minimizing negativity in one's life. Reducing stress has a positive effect on one's health. When I'm less frustrated, I'm more patient, and that makes me a better friend and spouse. It's also just more enjoyable to be around someone who's not constantly angry or miserable or complaining.
But I don't want to chase positivity to such an extent that I become disengaged. Especially as a Christian, I have to acknowledge that my life is not all about me and making myself feel as safe and happy as possible. Building the kingdom of God means going beyond a superficial acknowledgement that things in the world are imperfect, to actually working to change things for the better, and that generally requires becoming emotionally engaged enough to want to make things better than they are.
I recognize, as I've said before, that we each have limited time, money, and energy, so we can't do everything. It seems counterproductive, then, to get angry about things you're not going to do anything about. The anger doesn't go anywhere, doesn't change anything, just sits there inside you, or perhaps spreads to other people in the form of complaining to people who care less than you do and aren't going to do anything about it either. But neither is it good to protect yourself by being apathetic about everything, and never seeking to change anything.
So the challenge becomes minimizing counterproductive anger while maintaining productive anger. In other words, allowing yourself to become emotionally involved in the areas where you are motivated to do something to make a difference, and avoiding negative emotional involvement in things you have no control over.
And this is the balance that I haven't quite figured out how to strike.
What do you think? How can one cultivate positivity in a healthy way while still working to make the world better?