“I just can’t even get mad anymore.” I was telling a friend about something I’d seen, and while normally it would have made me furious, this time I just felt sad.
Earlier that evening, I’d found myself sitting in an auditorium in shock. Eyes wide and heart pounding, my head swiveled back and forth, searching the dark room for someone else — anyone else — who’d noticed what was happening in front of us. I didn’t find anyone. Later, when I asked the friends I’d been sitting with if they thought perhaps what had happened was wrong or, at the very least, in bad taste, they shrugged and changed the subject. And my heart ached, heavy with grief.
I was confused. Why did the events of that evening make me feel like crying myself to sleep instead of waving my arms in protest and rage?
I’d seen something blatantly racist take place that night, the kind of thing that, while it did not hurt anyone physically, was absolutely offensive and harmful. Our words and actions have that power, and this was an instance where that power had been misused. When nobody around me seemed to notice or care, I was disappointed. And I was sad that it had happened in the first place, sad that it was so easily accepted by those around me. But unlike every other time I’d read or heard about racial injustice or on the occasions I’d witnessed it firsthand, I didn’t feel angry.
I’m an Enneagram One, which I’ve learned means that anger is the emotion that motivates me most. I wouldn’t call myself an angry person, but I’m well-acquainted with anger all the same. So as I talked with my friend about what had happened, I was surprised and a little confused to realize I just could not stay mad. After all, if I’m allowed to have a favorite anger, righteous anger is absolutely it. Yet, when I told my friend I only felt weary and not angry, I knew it was true.
As I described my feelings, I felt disoriented and ashamed. Why wasn’t I mad this time? How many times had I liked and shared memes that said, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”? Yes!, I’d cried, nodding my head and cheering. We need to get mad and be mad and stay mad! Being mad is the only way things will finally change! This revolutionary spirit is one I’ve always had, and it’s felt comfortable in recent years as our world has grappled with so many issues and so much desire for change.
But while my anger has come from a holy place, burning with indignation when God’s children are mistreated and harmed, I’m beginning to realize that anger was just the first layer and perhaps even a symptom of what was going on below the surface.
The exact event I attended that night isn’t necessary to this story but believe me, I defnitely did not anticipate discovering a brand-new Truth there. And yet, I did. Funny how God works, isn’t it? Anyway, I’d love to tell you what I discovered about anger and grief and how they’re all intertwined. Join me at (in)courage for the rest of this article.