As we reflect on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., it is beneficial for us to see the whole person and not just one moment of his life where he gave the "I have a dream speech." King was angry at the sufferings that African Americans were enduring. He was not passive, a dreamer or in denial of what was happening around him. People who are in denial of what they are experiencing cannot solve their problems, but resort to escapism solutions like drugs and alcohol.
Yet, King reasoned with himself, and he nurtured his people to understand the reality of their pain and the reality of their suffering. When we divorce or abort the whole journey of his struggle and focus on just the "I have a dream" speech - we lose the skill and insight on how to guide those who are angry and in pain within our midst today. His life was a journey to understanding and growth, and not a dream.
Regarding anger, King said, "the supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force."
However, to be clear - this anger is not for the self or the tribe, but seeks a higher consciousness and soul development and is directed against the institutions of war and injustice, rather than individuals. It does not incite one to shoot indiscriminately at civilians. This is rancour and abusive anger.
To personal matters, King admonished himself, "You must not harbor anger." To nurture society to a higher understanding and fight injustice, King said "there had developed beneath the surface a slow fire of discontent, fed by the continuing indignities and inequities to which the Negroes were subjected."
We have a responsibility to anchor each other toward values we cherish, intending growth and not domination. In times of chaos and anger, we have a responsibility to seek guidance for ourselves and nurture guidance around us.
Some of us are gifted by the grace of God to deal with trials and tribulations well. I respect such people. They know how to reason with themselves during times of anger. They have a strong sense of boundaries placed within themselves to prevent them from harming others. They are always in control of their emotions, feelings and thoughts. These are qualities we need to seek in leaders, not people who who have no sense of boundaries - yet obsess with controlling others.
I want to ask - if you held feelings of anger and pain at the government, society, a particular group or person - how did you reason with yourself? I am curious to hear from people, especially, those who by grace of God are forebearing and overlook faults. What did you say to yourself in times of anger? How do you reason with yourself when you feel that something or someone has angered you to a boiling point?
Below are some quotes that I admonish myself with and want to share. I hope others can share their own wisdom.
"Whoever holds back his anger, Allah will conceal his faults and whoever suppresses his fury while being able to execute it, Allah will fill his heart with satisfaction on the Day of Standing (Judgement)." -- Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings.
"Temper is a weapon that we hold by the blade." -- Sir James M Barrie
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned." --Buddha
"Anger: an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." --Seneca
"He who speaks with a sharp tongue cuts his own throat." (unknown)
"If the first inward thought is not warded off, it will generate a desire, then the desire will generate a wish, and the wish will generate an intention, and the intention will generate the action, and the action will result in ruin and Divine wrath. So evil must be cut off at its root, which is when it is simply a thought that crosses the mind, from which all the other things follow on."-- Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali
“It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” -- James 3:5-5
These are just a small set - but I want to know from you. As you are about to respond, think of someone with a loaded handgun ready to shoot at the object of their anger. What would you say if you were given a few seconds to speak to him/her?
In the following blog, I will share an analysis by a Muslim counselor on processing our anger and hate in light of injustices around us. I hope these two blogs will help someone out there seeking to process their anger, pain and suffering.