Grieve. So that you can be free to feel something else. – Nayyirah Waheed
I am an emotional person. I feel a lot of feelings and am not afraid to express them.
One feeling that has been resounding lately has been anger. Anger about what’s happening in this country. Anger about some health stuff that is plaguing my body. Anger about this one person who tried to cut in front of me at Starbucks. Just raw, unfiltered, sometimes-justified-sometimes-not anger.
I’ve been taught that it’s not a good look for women to be angry. That when I am mad, there has to be some sort of sociological reason behind it. Or I must be on my period. Or I must be ovulating. Or I must have just got dumped. Or I must have not gotten enough sleep, must not be feeling good, or must not have had my coffee yet today.
The anger of women is constantly labeled and filed away, as if the righteous and justified anger, in and of itself, is brought on by some ridiculous and petty reason. Even worse, we as women have labeled ourselves. We apologize for our anger by taking these justifications listed above and attributing one to our current state.
A few years back, I was on the phone with a friend, ranting and raving about a man who had wronged me. This friend began to offer advice on how to move on, how to deal, how to cope, and I interrupted them. “I AM ANGRY,” I said. “I AM FURIOUS THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED.”
At that moment, my friend stopped and said something accidentally profound to me.
“You’re right. Let’s be angry.”
I’ve never forgotten that moment. For the first time…maybe ever…I was given permission to be angry. To grieve. To be sad and let my eyes fill with madness. And there was no label put on it to tell me that it didn’t matter.
Nayyirah Waheed said, “Grieve. So that you are free to feel something else.”
Something magical happened on that night. I was able to be angry. Furious. Enraged. Frustrated. I sat with those feelings for a while and let myself feel them fully. And then, after a few days, I didn’t feel them anymore. I felt something else; I felt myself starting to heal.
Pretend with me that you accidentally cut your hand with a knife. It hurts. The pain is your body’s way of telling you, “I am injured. I am not okay.” So, we treat that hurt. We bandage it and cover it to protect it from infection. We nurture that hurt. We take medicine to counteract that hurt and we rest while that cut heals. We don’t use our hand while it recovers. We sit with the hurt until every day, it hurts a little bit less. We keep it clean and put ointment on it so it doesn’t leave a scar. We don’t pick at the scab and expose the wound. After a few days, we feel better. And just a few more days later, our hand is ready to use again.
Pretend with me again: You cut your hand with a knife. You ignored the pain. You don’t clean it and tend to your wound. You don’t bandage it. You don’t let your hand rest. You insist that your hand is fine and ignore the pain- the signs that your body was sending that told you, “We are not fine.”
What would happen to that hand? How much longer would the healing process take?
If you are interested in feeling something other than anger, you have to let yourself feel anger. And then, after you have felt it, you need to release it. If you don’t release it, that anger will become infected and turn into bitterness. Anger is an emotion. Bitterness is a lifestyle.
How do you avoid the lifestyle of bitterness? By accepting that anger is a responsibility. Just like the cut that we endured from that knife, anger requires love and care. If the way that you harbor your anger is not moving you towards solution-oriented healing, you are at risk of the infection of bitterness.
If your anger, though justified, does not have an expiration date, you are setting yourself up for a healing that could take a year instead of a month.
If your anger is not channeled into things that can grow you and transform you into a better version of yourself, you will never heal, never change, and may possibly fall again into the thing that made you angry in the first place.
Our anger should be a lesson-teaching emotion. If you are angry and never find yourself recovering from it, my question to you would be what lesson have you missed?
Anger should lead to forgiveness. Giving yourself permission to feel one thing should lead to feeling another. But you might be reading this and thinking, “Leah, you don’t know how hurtful my situation was. You don’t know what it has done to me. How could I let go of this anger without feeling like that justifies it?”
The release of anger combined with forgiveness does not mean what happened to you was okay. It does not mean that trust is restored now or ever. It does not mean that you are now required to open your arms/doors/life to the thing that made you angry.
Forgiveness says, “This no longer binds me.” Forgiveness is brave and bold and difficult. Forgiveness is a mountain to climb, and you climbing that mountain and reaching the top sends a clear message that says I am in control of my own destiny. I am not afraid to do hard things to get the life I want and deserve.
Forgiveness means that you are no longer serving that other person and their words or actions. Forgiveness doesn’t release them from guilt; it releases you from them.
How much more does it say about our life when we move from anger to forgiveness? What level of #bossbabe are we when we can say, “This does not control me or define me. I define me.” What freedom do we offer to those around us when our own life reflects decisions that we have made to live in peace with ourselves.
Because let’s be honest: Sometimes we are harboring anger that the other person doesn’t even know- or care- about. Letting ourselves feel fully and then releasing that doesn’t make us look bad. It makes them look irrelevant.
Whatever you are angry about today, be angry. But don’t stay angry.
Be furious. But don’t stay furious.
Be frustrated. But don’t stay frustrated.
Stay proactive. Stay in a pattern of upward growth. Stay truest to you and not what someone did to you.
Mantra for the angry: I am bigger than the hurt that I have faced. I am stronger than the strongest insult that I have heard. I am bolder than the boldest betrayal that I have endured. I am more fierce than the fiercest attack against my character. I am ready for healing and I will accept it.