Letting go of tiny rage
A couple of weeks ago, this tweet from Shauna James Ahern appeared in my stream:
Here’s a stress-free living tip: if you don’t like a website or its author, stop reading it. Imagine your life without tiny rage!
It leapt off the screen and burrowed into my brain, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Tiny rage. I know it well. We’re close, tiny rage and I. We spend hours together, mornings and afternoons and evenings.
While I think Shauna was talking about something a bit different, I’ve borrowed the notion for myself. Here’s how I’ve come to define what tiny rage is to me: Tiny rage is a sense of righteous indignation towards an individual, issue, or idea that appears flawed in some way big or small.
Tiny rage is not the stuff of #FirstWorldProblems, like being irritated because my local organic market is out of my favorite cheese, or the line is too long at my hipster coffee joint, or an accessory for my fancy iProduct broke yet again.
Tiny rage is more noble than that. It’s when someone I’ve (probably) never met writes something offensive or mean or wrong on the Internet. It’s when some entitled jerk puts a whole group of people down. When a company makes a blatantly exclusionary policy. When someone flaunts their privilege and flattens someone else in the process.
Tiny rage feels legitimate. It rages against misogyny and thoughtlessness, racism and greed.When I feel tiny rage, I am Right. I am Honorable. I can See.
Tiny rage is a bump, a rush, a quick flare of scorn. I get caught up, wicked into an emotion that feels pleasurable, even while I am sickened by the latest display of cruelty or boorishness or mere incompetence.
I join the fray, click the link, groan in disgust, read the comments, tweet my response, and on and on it goes.The same thing happens the next day, and the next. Only the players change.
I can’t remember what I raged about last week, or the week before that. It is never enough. I need another hit.
Tiny rage seems so virtuous. People are being hurt, insulted, and denigrated by other people, every minute of every day! Don’t I have an obligation to be part of the mob that calls them out? Or at least know who is wrong about what?
It’s as if some part of me believes that there is a Righteous Rage Inspector who will knock on my door at any moment, quizzing me on how informed I am of Who Has Been a Baddie Today, and nailing a score sheet to the wall when he leaves.
But that’s ridiculous. I’m not helping anyone with my tiny rage. As virtuous as I feel, not a single one of my rage-fests has helped anyone.
There’s a reason tiny rage is tiny. It doesn’t lead to meaningful action. It doesn’t (usually) result in demonstrable change. It only perpetuates itself.
It’s time for me to let tiny rage go. Not to make myself immune to the pains of the world or ignore the very real problems around me, but the opposite.When I give myself over to it, spinning from one spiteful, depressing incident to another, my senses become dull. I inoculate myself to the true sadness of the world, drop by rage-filled drop.
I’ve given tiny rage an all-access pass, but no more. I’m just one person. I only have so much time, so much space, so much ability to hold the injustices in the world.
There are a few issues that matter deeply to me, causes and subjects I hold dear. These are the ones I will continue to pay close attention to. These are the ones I will allow my heart to be broken over, for this is where I have some chance to make an impact.
When tiny rage beckons, I will remind myself that when I say No to the wrong things, I leave space open for things that make me wiser, stronger, and more loving.
As for the others, I will (try) to let them float past. I have a business to run. I have a novel to write. There are books to read and beaches to explore and friends to visit.
Be gone, tiny rage. We’re through.