Our Friend Indignation

Indignation is our friend, if we’re keen on bringing our best self to the party.

By indignation I mean “self-righteous condemnation fueled by anger.”

Something is wrong, and we’re pissed about it.  From a fly in our soup, to the actions of others so brutal you wonder whether humankind deserves to survive.

My behavior too often suggests that I believe that indignation is necessary to convey my passionate resistance to what I find abhorrent, or undesirable, and sometimes just contrary to my whim.

I know better.  I’m right there with those who say the purpose of life is to be happy and reduce the suffering of others.  I know in spades that indignation is a distraction to that end.  I know, I feel, I experience that it robs me of my peace of mind, abuses my body, and can lead me to spit nastiness at others.  I’m a devotee of spiritual practices that help tremendously to calm my mind.  And while I’m not nearly the walking hand-grenade I have been, there are moments I’ll find myself pounding the steering wheel while silently yelling at the cretin who, years ago, did that thoughtless thing I can’t quite remember but have yet to forgive.  If I catch my face in the rearview mirror, I see just about the ugliest person on earth, which shuts me up quick.This is why I find it heartbreaking to experience the volume of indignation directed at Trump, even if he is the emptiest suit in town, an agent of tremendous harm and colossal nonsense.  No matter the target, indignation is about as kind to ourselves as using a bed of nails as a trampoline.  I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind going to bed saying, “Boy, I’m so happy; I really resented the snot out of a bunch of dopes today.”

Indignation is tricky.  Even when we know it’s a form of self-abuse masquerading as resistance to injustice or evil or whathaveyou, we still engage in it often enough.  It’s the equivalent of a drug.  The dopamine high of self-righteousness is very addictive.

And that’s why it’s our friend.  That addiction is what we must overcome if we are to bring our best self to our moments––resisting cruelty with unwavering perseverance yet without viciousness, hatred, superiority, and whatever else keeps us small and separate.

The Great Ones probably have an Indignation Day in the Big Out There when they tell all the wild and crazy things they did in its grasp, and what and how they learned in their freeing of it.

Many howls of laughter, you can bet.  Precisely what we have to look forward to as we learn to stand unshaken, with love, supporting one another, in the face of tremendous harm and colossal nonsense.



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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth