The problem isn’t that we’re too angry.
The problem is that we’re often too angry about the wrong things.
And even when we’re angry about the right things, we’re rarely angry enough to do the kind of things that will change what’s wrong.
There’s a scene in one of the Hunger Games films, Catching Fire, where Haymitch gives Katniss the following advice before the Quarter Quell begins: “Remember who the real enemy is.”
Haymitch gives her this advice because he wants her to realize that all of her apparent enemies are only small-scale manifestations of a much larger enemy: The Capitol. If she could find a way to defeat that more fundamental enemy, her other enemies would become irrelevant.
I think this is also true of the enemies that pose a threat to our personal growth. We seem to have so many: the jobs we hate, the people who treat us like crap, the trolls who harass us, the family members who annoy us, the friends who let us down, and everyone else who falls into the category of “people who aren’t as enlightened, intelligent, rational, and moral as we are.” But all of these enemies are just small-scale manifestations of a more fundamental enemy: Resistance with a capital “R.”
In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield says the following about Resistance:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.
Here are my questions to all of the folks who are worried to death about who’s going to be elected president or who’s going to be working the night shift or who’s going to do the next stupid thing: What would happen to your life, what would happen to the world, if you dared to face your own resistance? If instead of complaining about all the foolish people in the world, you asked yourself, “What am I going to do about it?”
What if you spent less time bemoaning the existence of crappy realities and more time challenging yourself to get up, get out, and do something practical about the things that anger you and stir your passion?
Merely being angry about the world is not a strategy.
If all you’re interested in doing is making yourself look right or righteous, then complaining is the way to go. If all you’re looking to do is blow off some steam, express frustration, and release a little anger without regard to achieving any further results, then complaining is the way to go.
However, if you’re interested in things like making art, building businesses, commanding respect from your peers, breaking self-defeating habits, improving your relationships, evading mediocrity, or just getting things done, then complaining won’t do anything for you until you start directing your thoughts, words, and activities towards a constructive goal.
Remember who the real enemy is: It’s your own resistance.