There are two types of anger–one that helps you change the world and the other helps you destroy it. But the line between a righteous anger, or holy discontent, is a fine line. If we aren’t careful, instead of lighting good fires for social change, we can unintentionally start wildfires that are out of control (and not in a good way).
My “Righteous” Anger
I used to be pretty angry at those around me for not caring about the social issues I cared about. I thought I had a good, fire-starting anger. And maybe the fires I lit started out as good, but I didn’t know how to handle the fire burning within me. It became a wildfire that lashed-out instead. It was dangerous. I poked and prodded for social change, but without understanding, without love, or without being rooted in joy. My anger soured and was like a corroding poison bitterness.
Ever felt that way? When you want someone to care about something and they are ignorant, arrogant, or indifferent?
When My Fires Turned Good
It wasn’t until I had to work with the people I was really bitter-angry at for a few years through a project to bring impoverished kids food that I finally began to overcome this poison-anger. I realized that these people I was working with might actually care, but they were just too overwhelmed, busy, hurting, or in denial to really move forward in the way I judged they should.
Now “these people” are my people, my hoodlums at Average Advocate.
STAGE ONE: Righteous Anger
For years I’ve been keeping tabs on the process people go through to find their sweet-spot to make a difference in the world, which I have slowly been putting together to help you walk through your own journey. You won’t be surprised to learn that anger is a universal stage that every world-changer goes through.
After being awoken (or as some might say, “woke”) to problems in the world around them, anger always follows. In fact, this fire and flame is lit inside of us is necessary. If we don’t experience a holy discontent, an anger at injustices, or what is “not right” in the world, we won’t ever do anything about it.
How to Start Good (Not Bad) Fires:
I wish that I had someone help me work through my own anger at this point, and show me how to start fires without condemning, without hating, without letting that bitterness grow within me. Most of us don’t have advocates who’ve gone before us who can show us how to revolutionize the world with love. Yes, I realize that might sound trite, but there is a big difference in the type of fires we burn, good fires, when we love those who are indifferent. If we stop seeing these anti-woke as enemies, but opportunities, even potential allies, our ability to create social change expands.
- Instead of drawing a line, us vs. them, we can invite naysayers to join the story with us.
- Instead of forcing dialogue, we can share our hopes and our vision.
- Instead of funneling flames of condemnation and self-righteousness in our passion–whether intentionally or not–we can repeatedly show acceptance, grace, and love. This can do SO MUCH to snuff out shame and give people space to change.
- Instead of demanding immediate action, we can offer consistent opportunities for response, remembering social change and the views driving them typically morph over time.
- Instead of talking all the time, listen to understand first, while actually really understand the concerns of the person on the other side of you.
- Instead of standing on a pedestal with our great knowledge, we strategically practice tactics that makes us appear approachable, are welcoming of questions, and humbly remind those around us that we are just on a journey ourselves.
Trust me, I know that having a “dialogue” with people who don’t see eye-to-eye with us on social issues can feel like pulling teeth! Realize you might enter into flight, fight, or freeze mode. It takes a lot of practice to become good at advocating with love, something I am still learning! In a nutshell, the key is to not let the problem become bigger than people.
What You Will Start Good Fires For? Discovering Your Holy Discontent
For myself, I eventually discovered that the people who “didn’t care” actually were my holy discontent. Yes, I was angry at a lot of social problems, from human trafficking to needless famines and genocide. But my greatest discontent was that people didn’t care let alone respond to global atrocities.
You see, your holy discontent can play one of the greatest roles in discovering your purpose, or calling (also known as a “burning bush”). I wrote this years back to go over the connection between your purpose (or calling, like a burning bush) and your holy discontent. Check it out (you might need to skim down) to help you begin thinking about your own holy discontent.
How Starting Good Fires with the LBD.Project Can Help
Last week I had the privilege to briefly speak about the two different types of anger. Through Blackout Trafficking (LBD.Project), our annual project to bring freedom to modern slaves and the exploited I’ve become a lot better at being a firestarter without the poison-anger.
One person told me it was weird that I invited people who struggled with anger (beyond a good holy discontent) to do Blackout Trafficking with me. Yes, if your holy discontent is that human trafficking shouldn’t be a thing, then it makes sense for you to do Blackout Trafficking. But even though it might seem disconnected, I still think the invite should stand. Even if ending human trafficking isn’t your passion, but ending childhood sexual abuse, or preventing school shootings is something you care a lot about–I think Blackout Trafficking will help.
I’ve come to recognize we can be angry advocates. Or advocates with a much greater long-term impact, as advocates who love.
Practice Makes Perfect (Or at Least Better)
It takes practice to advocate, to be a firestarter, without burning down the forest. Maybe intentionally learning how to advocate with love on a subject you aren’t as burning hot about is a good thing.
Also, there is something about sacrificing (in this case, by wearing one black item) to bring attention to an issue that is healthy, as sacrifice usually requires us to develop investment and a giving type of love. Some people call this fasting (you can read about how Blackout Trafficking changed me as I recognized it was a fast here).
What is Your Next Step To Start Good Fires?
- Join us (even for the last two weeks) as we do our annual Blackout Trafficking to bring freedom to modern slaves
- Comment below with another action step you can take to take to practice acting in love with your holy discontent
- If you’ve never thought about your holy discontent before, maybe this is your starting point–think about what sets you on fire in the first place
It isn’t time for you to sit on the sidelines. But it isn’t time for you to burn people with your anger, or let it burn you as it triggers you, either. It is time to become the firestarter who you are meant to be and make the difference you were born to make!