A vile plague of fear, anger, and hatred increasingly oppresses the world, and it especially bedevils the United States. What may not be obvious at first is the fact that most of what is behind all this strife is people’s adamantly held and forcefully expressed personal beliefs. In other words, their righteousindignation. Because these emotions feel righteous to us, we are sure expressing them must be a virtue! And indignation is anger at injustice. What could be a more saintly emotion than wholehearted righteousindignation?
Well, as it turns out, just about everything.
Righteous indignation is the primary source of all the negativity that now plagues our world! I will give you two examples from today’s news. Once you begin to look for it, though, you will see that it is everywhere:
The Pope now blames the thousands of childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse for the sin of calling out their abusers. Reading his words feels like entering a parallel universe! “Among us is the great accuser, who always goes to accuse us before God, in order to destroy us. Satan … The only legitimate accusation that we Christians have is to accuse ourselves. For others there is only mercy.” So for victims to work to purify their religion of its horrific and widespread sexual abuse means they are aligning themselves with Satan?
A biology teach in my grandson’s high school has been suspended for verbally abusing a student. Apparently the student did nothing to provoke her, but only knowing his political views made her feel compelled to taunt him. “Hey, Trumpy, do you have an answer to this?” and “What do you think, Trumpy?” She actually added, “By the way, I hate Donald Trump with a burning passion and he is a complete douchebag.”
Do you see what these news stories have in common?
The Pope takes what most of us see as an entirely indefensible position because in his mind he is defending God’s representatives on earth. True, they aren’t perfect, but their peccadilloes cannot be allowed to harm the Church of God! He is righteouslyindignant that anyone would challenge divine authority.
The teacher has allowed a mainstream media that is heavily negative about this President to fill her with righteous indignation to the point of rage that anyone could support him.
I urge you to try this yourself! Take any recent news story about any kind of disruptive strife and look behind it, and you are likely to find that one or a few people caused that strife out of their own righteousindignation.
Righteous indignation is so insidious and so pervasive that it is not an exaggeration to say that it has become the single biggest threat to the long-term survival of humankind. Please bear with me on this! The reasons why righteous indignation is so destructive are inherent in what are actually positive aspects of human nature:
All good people crave to make the world a better place.
Each of us constructs a worldview that is based upon what we see as the highest good.
When we see what our worldview tells us is evil happening right in front of us, we suffer what feels like the saintliest possible need to actively fight that evil.
Even Jesus was not immune to a sudden impulse to attack the temple money-changers!
Many of us see reality as essentially a fight between good and evil, and that awareness only ramps up our craving to battle for what we believe is right. But evil seldom presents itself wearing horns and a spiked tail! Rather, nowadays evil often comes to us cloaked in angel robes.Righteous indignation actually afflicts most severely the very people who are most determined to do what is right. Consider:
People in the grip of righteousindignation are insidiously immune to reason. They see their views as good because they formed those views with the purest of intentions, so any attempt you or I might make to share with them our different views only makes them see us as ambassadors of evil.
People in the grip of righteousindignation are sure they are defending all that is good. So they aren’t just fighting for their own beliefs. No, they see themselves as fighting for the very survival of goodness and truth! The stakes in their own minds could not be higher.
As I have begun to write about the fact that righteousindignation is the primary source of the world’s increasing fear and hatred, some people have written to say, “Aha! But what about righteous wars?” They may have a point! But even wars that seem righteous to us still have righteous indignation as their source. For example:
The American Civil War was fought because a side that saw slavery as the ultimate evil and a side that believed the states had rights were both seized by fits of righteousindignation.
World War I began when someone inspired by righteousindignation killed a nobleman, whereupon the German Kaiser’s righteousindignation inspired him to trigger his alliances.
World War II was the direct result of Germany’s righteousindignation at onerous strictures imposed on it following World War I.
The Vietnam War was the result of righteousindignation in the U. S. government based on the then-current “domino theory” that the advance of Communism had to be stopped.
Recent Mid-East wars have been the result of religious battling and terrorist attacks all inspired by righteousindignation, and then responses based in the righteousindignation of some of the victims of those attacks.
I have come to believe that no war that does not defend against an attack on the homeland can be justified. It may be that even such a purely defensive war should still be seen as wrong, but surely that very limited case would be the only legitimate exception to an outright condemnation of all wars!
How can we end this plague of righteous indignation before it tears our nation and the world apart? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it simply: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The key to ending all the chaos and pain that righteous indignation is causing is to help as many people as possible realize this emotion is the opposite of love! You cannot fight righteousindignation in someone else, since any mild defense that you might mount against someone who is deep in its throes will be seen as a personal attack based in evil. So if you try to dispute with such a person, not only will you achieve nothing good, but also you will risk increasing the world’s sorry burden of fear and rage. Your only useful course is to disengage! Send your attacker sincere love and blessings, and then withdraw. Agree to return only when productive discussions are again possible.
The only way to end this plague will be to eradicate righteous indignation as a respectable human impulse. When sufficient people have gotten to the point where they see righteousindignation as the vice that it is, then those who are using it now are going to be shamed into giving it up. And the first place from which to rout it must be ourselves! You are suffering from righteous indignation if you experience any of these symptoms:
You see things in terms of an obviously clear right and wrong. Nothing whatsoever is all right or wrong! Your refusal to respect and listen to someone who holds a view contrary to your own is a massive warning that you are not as sure about the truth as you think you are.
You are so adamant about your position that encountering a contrary view enrages you. These are just competing ideas, for heaven’s sake. They are not drawn swords!
You have let a purely factual argument feel like a personal attack. I have been the target of a recent campaign of righteous indignation, and both of the people who were most rigorous in their attacks on me said the same telltale words: “Do you know who I am?” My dear friend, if you ever so much as think those words, it is time to give yourself a time-out!
What should you do if you find that you yourself are suffering from righteous indignation? First, know that you have become a cause of much greater problems for the world than are whatever wrongs you may have thought you were fighting. So get yourself out of the fray! If your righteousindignation has made you angry with someone, make a point of healing that relationship. And make a big point of open-mindedly studying the points of view of others that most directly oppose your own! Only when you can articulate the best positions that oppose your own beliefs can you trust yourself to speak again in the arena of ideas.
It may be that our only cure for the fear and hatred that are the bitter fruits of righteousindignation will be to change the way we address both spiritual and temporal matters. It is devoutly-held political and religious beliefs that underlie nearly all righteousindignation, so it may be that both institutions have become sources of such monstrous evil that our only choice will be to give them up. It may at last be time to seek out more productive ways to govern ourselves, and more love-based ways to relate to God! Let’s begin to talk about that….
photo credit: Free For Commercial Use (FFC) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/156555495@N04/36326715251″>Anger! A couple arguing :(</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: amslerPIX <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/20777644@N05/38959278830″>Angry group of seniors protesting with signs, old lady with a megaphone</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 32 Million views) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/82256086@N00/24484887223″>Union Soldiers on the March</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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20 thoughts on “Fighting Righteous Indignation”
Thank you, Roberta. I have been indignant lately about this very issue so this hits home!😉 Seriously I have been giving this fundamental element of human interaction a lot of thought lately, so I may come back and contribute to the discussion. For now I just wanted to commend you on this series of blog entries. I AM worried about your getting enough sleep, though! 😃
My goodness, dear Mike, you must have been waiting to read this the instant it was posted! Thank you for that. These posts feel like orphans to me until somebody reads them ;-).
And you are right: I’m not getting much sleep now. I was up at three to polish this, and eventually posted it at about 5:30. I seem to be feeling an urgency to get as much done as I possibly can! But it is difficult to express the joy I feel as my work of a lifetime is coming together. And Spirit is already using it to help so many! Every day I get personal messages that sometimes take me hours to answer; every day, too, it seems that I am given another insight. Next week we will be talking about the kernel of poison that makes righteous indignation so destructive, and I gasped when it was given to me. Who knew??
Please do contribute to this discussion, Mike – you always have such great things to say!
one of the best blogs I’m reading here!
Glenda Green pointed out Jesus’ deep regret of that temple action as well as cursing that fig tree that wilted.
It might be a good idea to talk the role of the human ego, as it is not our divine nature that gets indignant, but our ego-nature.
Thank you; and bless you;
I look forward to the next post
Adri, you bring up a great point: the ego is at the root of all evil. I have been trying to squeeze a quick reference to the ego into one of these posts, but we limit their length and there always is too much else to say.
I have learned quite a lot about the ego and how it works, and I will just say here that the ego is part of the package we assume when we enter these bodies. Its primary purpose is to help us forget our genuine eternal natures and more securely tie us to the illusion that what we see around us is real, and it also is the source of our drive for the preservation of these bodies and our core fear of death. It isn’t precisely an entity, but it function as one to some extent; and emphatically it is not who we are. We function even better without it! When you sincerely do an A Course in Miracles study group, you get to what is called “the undoing of the ego,” which is one of the roughest experiences I ever have had. But it was so much worth it! You are right, Adri; we need to talk about the ego. Next week we will tackle Christianity’s impending demise and what must follow it, but perhaps the week after that we should sum things up by exposing the ego that underlies all evil. Let’s see how things develop!
I had forgotten about that poor tree Jesus shriveled because it wouldn’t produce fruit for Him out of season. Boy, if there ever were a perfect “Do you know who I am?” moment, there it is!
I’m sure the Lord did regret giving two such terrible examples to His first-century followers, but as our ultimate Teacher I think He might be glad that they have been preserved for us today. They are our proof that even very good people can be seized by fits of righteous indignation, so we must be patient and loving in dealing with them even when they are insane; and they are His demonstrations of what not to do. What more guidance can He give to us than that?
Thank you for your outline.
My brother died last month in a California hospital that services the poor and the addicted.He was 62 and a recovering addict.
His body and he were ready to part. Nice to know the underpaid, overwhelmed staff was very good to Donal in his last few earthy days.
As I learned a few years ago, Donal’s drug use was triggered about 49 years ago when he was sexually assaulted at age 10.-Multiple times- by school thugs at a special learning school in Westchester County NY. He was trying to kill the pain/shame.
Well you can imagine my righteous -murderouus -indignation.
Truthfully , I am more reposed in the last few weeks. My spiritual reading and your lectures about after life motivated me to send him freeing prayers-thoughts-feelings.
Donal’s assaulters are not known .
Donal at times behaved poorly in that he committed small crimes, sold drugs and stole money. Donal was also deeply loved in the Santa Monica community for Bri ging and encouraging all kinds to persons to
Go to the AAand NA . He was magical .
Forgiveness. Well I am on a path of forgiveness , and paradoxically , I am more likely to be vigilant , not ignorant, not passive, should this kind of behavior be evident , I like to think I and others would intervene.
My spiritual conflict- perhaps many others as well
Here it is ……. being “forgiveness” and all the while , being ready mentally, spiritually ,physically, ready to successfully confront persons engaged in harming myself or others.
Maybe the highest most sublime state to attain in this life is to be and have a strong state of love and connection and at the same time be physically capable and prepared to confront violence , and not in a meek way.
I have not attained that state.
Righteous Indignation to me is the less refined state where persons, groups ,countries , welcome the feeling of taking destructive action without seeing ,experiencing, real physical local direct threats. However I also do see their abstract concern and fear of being harmed.
I am not at that level either.
Oh well, God and I bless Donal and myself too.
Oh Bryan, you bring up such a good point! It is hard for us in the midst of life to see something like the horrible injustices inflicted on your poor brother and not to be so enraged that we will lash out at anyone and anything! And for me to say that forgiveness and “turning the other cheek” must be your only response probably makes you want to kill me, too.
There are two reasons why forgiveness is important. Neither addresses an immediate wrong, but both are going to make it possible for humankind to finally put evil behind us!
1) Forgiveness helps you to fairly dramatically raise your personal vibration away from fear and the other negative emotions and toward ever more perfect love. This will make you a lot happier, both here and hereafter; and
2) As you raise your own vibration toward love, you materially contribute to the spiritual elevation of all the world.
So I am eager to enlist you in this army of love, Bryan! But I understand that at this stage of humankind’s spiritual development there will be some who see the possibility that actively fighting injustices now can help to pave our way to a better future. Seeing things this way violates what we think of as the laws of spiritual physics, but if you are fighting only from love and not from anger at what seem to be the villains, then I can understand your impulse. And I’m sending both you and Donal big hugs! I am sorry for your grief, but I am glad to know that your brother is now safe in a beautiful place where there is no suffering, a place where love never ends….
I agree with you. The state of forgiveness with acknowledging the objective facts is the path I am on.
Oh Bryan, I’m delighted to read this from you! And you will be glad to know that I am getting emails from others saying essentially the same thing. It seems that many people are coming independently to realize that our present path is madness, and I am frankly surprised to see how well these ideas are resonating. It’s exciting to think about where the group wisdom may be starting to take us!
I agree with the comments written here, especially about the ego. Looking forward to next week when you elaborate on this, especially the part about how it ties us to the illusion that this world is very real (and to some people, it is the only game in town). I have very big problems dealing with the ego thing, as it is impossible for me to believe that any “God” or higher power would create a being that is so ego dependent, knowing the horrible tragedies that would follow such a scenario. Although people’s answer to this is usually “self preservation,” the human ego far exceeds this simple concept.
Dear Lola, the key to not blaming Spirit for our ego-based failings is to always remember that nothing about this material reality is objectively real! Think of it as a stage play, if you like. I think of it as just a bad afternoon in a spiritual gym. But nothing about it is objectively real! Nobody actually died in the Holocaust. Nearly everyone who has bad things happen here actually chose those bad things as great spiritual lessons that will help them to grow spiritually much more rapidly. WE are inextricably part of the Godhead, and WE eagerly created this rough reality because we are so desperate for further spiritual growth!
All of which is not to say that if we harm others in this fake reality there will be no consequences. Jesus tells us in the Gospels that neither He not God ever will judge us, but instead we will judge ourselves; and that turns out to be perfectly true. This is one reason why learning to forgive is so important, since otherwise many of us will find it hard to forgive ourselves for what we did on earth!
As Jesus says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (LK 6:37-38). You will forgive yourself only to the extent that you have learned to forgive everyone else!
Hello Roberta, I have not written in a while, for which I apologize, we all need genuine positive feedback. I have been reading all your posts and they are as always enlightening , powerful, and loving. You have really hit upon a much needed topic in this “righteous indignation”. Everything you are saying is so spot on and certainly been a broken and poisonous position taken by the church and Christians over the ages. What is so insidious is that lower levels of consciousness take on the cloak of the justified high and mighty. True compassion and caring have often been overrun by justified negative outrage. My fear, which is of course non loving, is the loss of decency and truth.
Yes, I so agree that disengagement allows a space to find our true selves. This is difficult because we are daily inundated by waves of righteous indignation from many sides. My learnings from many spiritual teachers is to detach and avoid any positions. Only in facing the fear and feeling it without thinking or trying to control it, can we encounter the higher energy that we all actually are. In persistence to this approach, the light overcomes the darkness. Love to all who comes here, and of course to dear Roberta.
Michael and Roberta, Thanks for this post, which is turning into my morning meditation as I re-read it. I relate to what Michael has written in this comment and, as I wrote above, I just might be pulling my thoughts together– which have been roaming around the idea of patriotism and tribalism especially, which we are all raised with some form of — and I may even get to formulating my comment and adding it.
Much gratitude to two of my favorite people! I’m so glad that you have resonated with the insight that righteous indignation is so dangerous; I like it too, and I can say that because at this point everything I write comes from Thomas in Spirit. I so much wish I were as smart as he makes me look ;-)!
It seems to me that simply being aware of righteous indignation is a first step. As you say, Michael, when you learn to spot it you find it everywhere! And it is both aggressive and very low-vibration, so it tends to take over and drag down everything. I think people find it easier to spot in politics, so that is the topic I will be discussing in my next post, scheduled for tomorrow. Then next week I will tackle Christianity, where, as you very well say, Michael, it lowers the level of consciousness while it takes on the cloak of being high and mighty. Establishment Christianity will be a tough nut to crack, but we know we are on the side of the Lord!
Many others are now teaching about the afterlife, which I had thought was going to be my work for the rest of my life. But now I realize that perhaps it will be my work to help people learn how to turn away from fear and toward love? We have a world to save!
Roberta, As you are getting ready to write about politics, I thought I’d better get my act together and post my commentary, if only as food for thought for the next installment. I think we can say the ego is like the Energizer Bunny. When we form our decisions to come into this world, we’re equipped with what Ram Dass calls a “space suit” and as I see it, they (our “home team” ) prepare us in the “away team” by putting a little back-up battery in the suit that’s designed to alert us to when the suit springs a leak or takes on too much stimulation or otherwise malfunctions, to help us self-correct the function of our suits so we can perform the mission. Somewhere along the line, the back-up battery got perceived as the main power source. No wonder we all feel so weak! I have been thinking that as we started to run down, we decided on banding together, thinking connecting all these weak egos would keep make us stronger. That’s where tribalism and nationalism arose — making us feel as though there were enough Energizer Bunnies to keep us all going. Patriotism has bothered me for years because it’s been elevated to such a level of value that we can all be manipulated into thinking we’re serving the “greater good” — a greater good that is really quite subjective and self-serving (usually a self that’s some demagogue’s not our own). This is true of all kinds of allegiances, not just political, I am sure. As we are raised to “follow our hearts” and “be true to ourselves” and “stick to our guns,” we’re really being fueled for righteous indignation everywhere we turn. I remember being told as a child to “channel my anger” so that I would have power to make things happen. Yet that usually resulted in a lot of collateral damage whose pieces I think picked up afterward, when I was no longer angry. OK, that’s a bit of a ramble, but hopefully it adds to the conversation as food for thought.
Interesting theories, Mike! The whole topic of the ego is a fascinating and complex one, and I think your ideas are mostly right: its purpose is primarily our bodily survival, so its obsessions are anti-unity and fear-based. We tend to imagine it is who we are, when in fact it turns out to be utterly unnecessary and counterproductive once we are reasonably advanced spiritually. Freeing yourself from the importuning of your ego is really the basis of further spiritual growth!
I think we ought to make the ego the topic of a blog post, now that you bring it up. Wow, you know, it feels quite freeing to not have to always write about the afterlife and the greater reality. Many good researchers are working there now, and there is so much more to talk about that is a lot more interesting!
Theories indeed. I have never seen anything in anyone’s research about the ego functioning as an amok background diagnosis tool. It’s just something from my own dreamwork and observation. It obviously is part of our “space suit” to help make sense of the experience in some way, and in many of us, it’s out of sync with the mission.
Mike, I’m sorry – I must have misspoken. I do think you are right about most of this, and perhaps all of it! The ego is indeed part of the package – the space suit, you call it – that we don when we enter a human body. It seems primarily to be meant to reinforce the illusory identity that we assume when we enter an earth-lifetime, to act as a further barrier to our recalling and wanting to return to our true home, and to make us want to survive in these earth-bodies at all costs. It is heavily fear-based! In fact, my own experience with the ACIM vanquishing-the-ego experience makes me think it might be our ONLY source of fear. And it certainly is not who we are , even in part! I’ve put this discussion on the list, and I’ll write about it in a few weeks. I hope you will join in then!
Roberta, I knew what you meant. I believe we are aligned. I called the ego a back-up system because I like the analogy. But I am still working on it! I am still working on my ego, too.😉
I must have misspoken. I do think you are right about most of this, and perhaps all of it!
Hello Susan! I’m not sure where you might have misspoken, but of course I don’t mind at all if you don’t agree with me on things! Some thoughtful people who haven’t entirely agreed with me have been my best teachers. Thank you for commenting here!