Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 10, 1964
* * *
War: Today, North and South Korea have traded fire.
Anger: There is a person in my life – and those around this person – who is always angry about something. Drama everywhere, whether it is personal tragedy, dysfunctional family, or the fact that something is not a concrete, black and white, absolute fact. Nothing seems to give pleasure. Personality temperature runs hot, then cold. No shades of grey.
There is always a reason behind each outburst, something which triggers it: a season, a holiday, an event, a person, a circumstance, a moral stance, a perspective, a memory. These reasons are excuses for abuse.
Cancer: A friend of mine died about 5 years ago, and the world is a sadder place with her passing. She had cancer, and during her course of treatment she mentioned how tired she was of being told to “go to battle against the cancer,” “fight against the cancer,” and on, and on, and on. Why, she wondered, is everything in our world couched in terms of war, battles, fights? Why is there always a need to be victorious, to conquer, to win? What about adapt, accept, modify, negotiate?
I couldn’t agree with her more. In fact, out of all my years of friendship, the things which remain as her legacy to me are love and peace and cooperation.
Aggressive, angry people are to be pitied. They spread disease and contagion of the mind, heart and spirit. Constant complainers who find only the negative are the same. Who benefits from this? Certainly they don’t, but more, those around them become poisoned, oftentimes without realizing what is going on. Anger is infectious, just like a cold, and it makes the rounds. On the surface, it may disappear, but underneath, it can lie dormant in the form of resentment, which can flare into anger at a moment’s notice, with or without justifiable cause. It lurks, ready to attack.
So, how do you get rid of it? How do you get rid of it in your own life? Sure, avoid these kind of people – easy advice – but not necessarily easy to do. You find them at work, in your family. How do you keep from internalizing the poison these people spread? Hey, in today’s vernacular, you have to battle it! And that is just fighting fire with fire. Aggression steps in, the need to win enters.
What about honestly acknowledging the fact that these people exist, are there, and are not going away? How about realizing you cannot change them? How about admitting to a resentment about their toxic effect on your internal landscape? This is called reframing, and this is what can begin an attitudinal shift along with a simple acknowledgement of the reality that is. Not always easy, but certainly a far more peaceful solution than loud confrontations with those people, and a more harmonious way to continue on your life journey.
I cannot change these people, I cannot save these people, nor do I find I have any desire to do so.
Most interestingly, I learn a great deal from these people, about them, and about myself.