Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me. Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.
“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the sudden rage were not for us. Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but for us alcoholics it is poison.” Bill Wilson, AS BILL SEES IT
When was the last time you screamed at or threw a middle finger to your TV screen? Last week, yesterday, maybe a few minutes ago? And did it accomplish anything? Probably not.
Today I understand how fragile my inner ecosystem can be. My emotions are not like those of normal men and women who view or hear an outrageous story deserving of anger. They process the news, digest it, and respond in a constructive manner. I do not, although, I am infinitely better than I once was. No, I can still be the guy standing in front of his TV screen flailing arms and fingers, hurling profanities at the image which has provoked me. Do I believe that person heard or saw me? No, of course not. But I sure told him a thing or two, did I not?
Anger destroys every inch of peace and contentment that dwells within. It alters the thought processes which lead to a God-honoring state of mind. One minute of outrage can develop into 24 hours, or longer, of festering resentment. Just one moment of anger can do that. Am I willing, today as a sober man, to sacrifice my serenity for anger?
It’s one of the seven deadly sins according to numerous faith walks. Let’s call it a character defect. My inner demons use anger very effectively to divide and conquer. When my mind is consumed with discord it cannot process the love that awaits in communion with a higher power. All things spiritual are ushered to a back burner while the negatives boil away at a furious burn. Division conquers. Calling 911 to God’s help line is the only solution. Pray, pray, pray.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”
I certainly cannot change the doofus on TV who has taken control of my emotional state of mind. Lord, why would I willingly give a conduit of hatred and division such a presence in my world? Divide and conquer is not only an inner manifestation that destroys my serenity. It also works for political figures and world leaders intent on personal power and prestige. Divide the people, then go in for the kill.
I don’t have to play the game. Sobriety has opened a world of possibilities for a life apart from the games politicians play. Religious leaders also sometimes deserve that middle finger of dissent. Divide and conquer. “My God is better than yours. I’m going to heaven, you’re going to hell. I am unique and special.”
Does that kind of rhetoric meet the standard set by Jesus or any of the messengers of truth which have been shared with us? Many years ago, a wise old man advised me, a newly sober man searching for a better way, “If your religious affiliation doesn’t teach love and compassion for your fellow-man, then it is not of God.”
Take that advice with a grain of salt – or adhere to it like I did. It has made the search for truth in theological philosophy mind-blowing and simultaneously comforting. Consider these words from my foremost first read every morning:
“Buddhism affirms that there is only one of us, and therefore we are each responsible for every link in the web of being. Christianity offers us the unconditional mercy of an incarnational God who permeates the whole of creation with love. Judaism urges us to demonstrate our love for God in the way we treat each other and care for creation. Hinduism kindles the fire of devotion for reunification with the Beloved who is no other than our own true Self. Islam shares the peace that comes with complete submission to the One.”
FATHER RICHARD ROHR Mirabai Starr in The World Wisdom Bible: A New Testament for a Global Spirituality, Rami Shapiro, ed. (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2017), vii-viii.