There is an old saying – I think it was the Buddha – which goes; “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” or better yet another one from the Book of James in the New Testament – “The anger of man does not bring about God’s righteousness.”
Okay those were two sayings. Where am I going with this? I just discovered a very insidious way in which anger affects my emotional and spiritual journey and I thought I would like to share. I am an avid journaler (if that’s a word) and every now and then I love to go over my thoughts from previous months to assess my most predominant mental commentary. However, what ends up being revealed is not what made its way onto the page yet heavily implied. You know the thing about reading between the lines? or how what is being omitted is what is being emphasized? Journaling has a way of letting me know where the devil is hiding. This time around, the omitted emphasis was the devil hiding as my motivator – ANGER.
The most pernicious aspect of my reflection all these years was my incessant self-berating. It was justified as a form of personal accountability. It never crossed my mind till recently that there was something wrong about that approach. I grew up watching a lot of sports and imagined myself be motivated by the sorts of phrases I heard athletes motivate themselves by. I came of age in Los Angeles in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. My athletes of choice;
Michael Jordan “It’s not how hard you push along the way. It’s having something in you to finish.” “Look me in the eye. It’s okay if you’re scared so am I. But we’re scared for different reasons. I’m scared of what I won’t become but you’re scared of what I could become.” and
Kobe Bryant. “I improve as a basketball player everyday and I want to show I improve”
From “Eye in the Sky” to “Mamba Mentality.” I was gentle by disposition but often I needed a certain degree of anger to spur myself into scenarios that I knew would come with adversity but would sustain growth. If the prospective growth was appealing enough I let my anger guide my decision-making. It gave me sufficient tunnel vision for focus on the goal at hand. It gave potency to my activity.
I am no high achiever by any means. In fact, in a lot of ways one could say I underachieved by the talents I was provided. But the highlights of my accomplishments; recent and further past, always came with a measure of quiet, guiding anger. Anger gave me focus, persistence, and an eye for excellence. It was not a superpower but it definitely was the elixir.
Unfortunately, as referred to in the first statement of this article, anger has a price. Usually, it consumes the person nursing it regardless of how justified it feels. Like a narcotic addiction or compulsive behavior, it erodes the essential component of our conscience. The more it festers the less we see how we are harming ourselves. It is like a flame without fumes or scent but when its work is done the object is melted.
Berating oneself for motivation ends up having the opposite effect. It is the ultimate sabotage. Still leaves huge anger residue that the mind then seeks to attach or attribute to recent and past memory. Subtle forms of deception to maintain its grasp over my inner thoughts. Alas, as divine intervention would have it, the gig was up. How many memories of disappointments can I relive in order to fuel myself only to take myself through motions with focus, clarity or intention. Life becomes a parody of the mind’s fantasies and story lines make less sense but the inner justification is unshakeable.
Oh how I wish I made not anger my confidant. My fears it has enlarged to distract me. My gifts it has consumed without securing profit. Anger is the friend that came to protect my house but instead built a tall gate and threw away the key. At first we ate, drank and what we had in abundance and then he ate, drank what was in store not caring about replenishment and when all was done he had nowhere to go because he locked the gate and threw away the key. This leaves me the single ultimate option…
Only one of us is going to make it. The choice is mine.
by Julian Michael Yong