The hidden wisdom of anger — morning meditation

What is a morning meditation? To help me build a habit of daily writing, I’m publishing a few thoughts here every morning about ideas that interest and inspire me, mostly drawn from ordinary life. I hope you enjoy them.

Our culture has an anger problem. I’m not talking about the many polls showing widespread anger among U.S. residents at the state of our country (though that’s certainly problematic, too, for different but perhaps related reasons). I’m talking about the way we deal with the emotion of anger, both individually and in our shared spaces.

It might be more accurate to being with how we don’t deal with anger. Americans are a famously positive, optimistic people. We tend to view anger as a negative emotion, counterproductive at best, dangerous and toxic at worst. We learn almost from birth that anger is something to be hidden rather than expressed. When we do express anger, we’re often punished for doing so, which only deepens our sense of shame for experiencing it at all.

But anger isn’t a shameful emotion. It isn’t inherently negative. It’s just part of being human. Anger only becomes toxic when we ignore it, suppress it, shove it deep down inside our hearts where it bubbles and eventually boils over and before you know it, you’re yelling at the bus driver and don’t even know why.

I don’t believe it has to be this way. I’d even argue that when we stop fighting our anger and start listening to it instead, we can find that it holds a great deal of hidden wisdom.

It may sound absurd that an emotion we have been so heavily conditioned to fear, suppress and avoid could actually help us become wise, but hear me out. Think about the last time you felt angry. Don’t worry about whether or not it was justified, just think back without judgment.

Why were you angry? What happened to trigger that anger? And what does that tell you about the values you hold, about what matters most to you?

We don’t get angry at things that aren’t important to us. Anger is the younger sister of care.

This is anger’s hidden wisdom. When we shine a light on our anger, we also illuminate our care. And this has much to teach us about who we are, what we value and how we can live more purposefully.

Don’t fear your anger. Listen to it. Honor it. Follow its light. It has so much to show you.