Becoming Dreamers Again

by Mark Votava


I am learning to take responsibility for my anger and other feelings in my life.  This has been so good for me.  As a person who is feels things deeply, I need to learn to listen to my feelings like anger and not place blame on someone else.  Feeling my anger and taking responsibility for it without suppressing it or pushing it away is a good practice that helps me to live into my authentic self.

I have had a lot of anger in myself sometimes.  My anger speaks to me if I will let it.  I used to think that my experiences of the church, my family, or other relationships or things that happened to me in life made me angry.  But this is not true.

My anger is not caused by something else outside of myself like how someone is treating me or by life situations not working out the way I expected them to.  No, my anger is mine not caused by what someone else did.  I must take responsibility for my anger and not live my life blaming or judging everyone around me because I feel anger at times.

Taking care of my anger is important because it is a part of me.  It is telling me something deeper that I must seek to understand about myself.  My anger a lot of times covers up the vulnerable need that is not being met in my life.  Instead of pursuing this need with vulnerability, gentleness, empathy and compassion; anger demands what I want aggressively as it blames and judges.

I find this lesson hard to take because I think that the church and all the injustice in the world makes me angry.  But is my perception wrong?  Maybe my intellect cannot understand that nothing can make me angry.  I have believed this my whole life that others make me angry by what they say or do.

But I don’t believe it anymore.  I still feel anger, but it is not caused by any person or institution or situation.  It just is.  It is not good or bad.

It is a feeling within me I must take responsibility for and figure out what it has to say to me in my own healing journey of exploration.  Anger is usually not accepted well by others and we can easily be condemned by it, especially if you are trying to be connected to the church in some way.  And I have always desired to be connected to the body of Christ, but not in its traditional forms.  I desire for the reformation and transformation of the church in the twenty-first century.

It seems like God is leading me to take responsibility for the anger that I feel when I think about the church a lot of the time.  The church is not responsible for my anger.  It has not made me feel angry, but I honestly do feel anger.  This is the paradox and tension that I live in.

I think my anger is leading me to take responsibility to be the change I want to see in the world.  I am tired about excessively venting about the church.  My anger leads me to heal, grow, love, show compassion, humility and grace.  I want the church to be a loving community of hospitality, justice and creativity where we love our neighbors as ourselves in everyday life together.

This is my dream.  I think my anger has been good for me because as I take responsibility for my anger it is turning into compassion and dreams are being born in me for the church in this time.  I feel we need more people who take responsibility for their anger to allow it to shape their dreams so the body of Christ can be a more loving community in the world.  I have hoped for a long time that the church would become dreamers again.

Somewhere along the way we have lost our ability to dream.  Maybe because we have used our anger to blame and judge instead of allowing it to speak to us, feeling the pain of it in all its dimensions, have we lost touch with our humanity as dreamers.  This is one of the greatest crises the church must face if we are going to embody love together.

  • The seed of anger in us

“All of us have a seed of anger in the depths of our consciousness.  But in some of us, that seed of anger is bigger than our other seeds – like love and compassion.  The seed of anger may be bigger because we have not practiced in the past.  When we begin to cultivate the energy of mindfulness, the first insight we have is that the main cause of our suffering, of our misery, is not the other person – it is the seed of anger in us.  Then we will stop blaming the other person for causing all our suffering…”

  • We are primarily responsible for our anger

“Whenever the energy of anger comes up, we often want to express it to punish the person whom we believe to be the source of our suffering.  This is the habit energy in us.  When we suffer, we always blame the other person for having made us suffer.  We do not realize that anger is, first of all, our business.  We are primarily responsible for our anger, but we believe very naively that if we can say something or do something to punish the other person, we will suffer less.  This kind of belief should be uprooted.  Because whatever you do or say in a state of anger will only cause more damage in the relationship.  Instead, we should try not to do anything or say anything when we are angry.”

  • Looking deeply into our perceptions

“Most of the time anger is born from a wrong perception…  Every one of us must practice looking deeply into our perceptions…”

  • Nothing can heal anger except compassion

“Nothing can heal anger except compassion.  This is why the practice of compassion is a very wonderful practice.”

  • We are more than our anger, we are more than our suffering

“In a time of anger or despair, our love is still there also.  Our capacity to communicate, to forgive, to be compassionate is still there.  You have to believe this.  We are more than our anger, we are more than our suffering.  We must recognize that we do have within us the capacity to love, to understand, to be compassionate…”

  • The greatest relief comes from understanding

“When you are angry, you want to ease your suffering.  That is a natural tendency.  There are ways to find natural relief, but the greatest relief comes from understanding.  When understanding is there, anger will go away by itself.  When you understand the situation of the other person, when you understand the nature of suffering, anger has to vanish, because it will be transformed into compassion.”

  • The tender way of taking care of your anger

“To understand ourselves, we must learn and practice the way of non-duality.  We should not fight our anger, because anger is our self, a part of our self.  Anger is of an organic nature, like love.  We have to take good care of anger.  And because it is an organic entity, an organic phenomenon, it is possible to transform it into another organic entity…  So don’t despise your anger.  Don’t fight your anger, and don’t suppress your anger.  Learn the tender way of taking care of your anger, and transform it into the energy of understanding and compassion.”

All quotes taken from the book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you think other people or situations make you angry?  Or do you take responsibility for your anger looking for something deeper in it about yourself?