“Great emotions are especially powerful teachers. Even anger and rage are great teachers, if we listen to them. They have the capacity to blind you, but also the power to open you up, and bring you profound conversion, humility and honesty. People who are too nice and never suffer or reveal their negative emotions, usually do not know very much about themselves…the feminist movement has rightly recognized that many women have to be led into a necessary anger.”
–Richard Rohr, “Hope Against Darkness” (pg. 99,100)
Not only are women supposed to suffer public, blatant sexist humor at the hands of our Christian brothers, we are also not allowed to be angry about it. Indeed, where is our sense of humor? Can’t we “overly sensitive” women take a joke?
Getting angry is a cardinal sin–for a woman.
Women in the church, you see, are expected to endure all manner of crude jokes, putdowns, mockery, being told to shut up, to keep quiet, to not get our “panties in a knot,” to not be so easily offended.
And we’re supposed to endure all this without ever once getting angry.
Because as soon as we get angry, well, we’ve crossed a line. We’ve invalidated our arguments. We’ve become “emotional” and–my personal favorite–unable to “think logically.”
Ironically, the first thing I learned in therapy was the necessity of anger. I can’t tell you how many therapy sessions started with me saying: “Well, this probably doesn’t qualify as abuse but…..” and then go on to describe a horrifyingly abusive experience.
When my therapist asked me if I was angry about what happened, I’d say: “Oh, no! I’ve forgiven and moved on!”
Because that’s what nice, Christian women do, right? We don’t get angry! We forgive! We play nice! We move on!
The problem, of course, was that by never allowing myself to feel anger about what happened, I missed a crucial, vital step in the mourning/recovery process. By rushing to Forgive-And-Move-On!, I repressed the negative emotions without transforming them.
The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in the past 9 years is that if I don’t transform my pain, I will transmit it.
When I first went to therapy, I couldn’t understand why I kept having these unpredictable outbursts of anger. I thought I needed to learn how to better control my temper. It wasn’t until I was willing to look at what was causing the anger that I was able to truly move forward.
Allowing myself to feel angry about legitimate injustice was a necessary step toward epiphany. By circumventing necessary emotions, I’d cheated myself of fully understanding and living my spiritual journey.
Furthermore, by stuffing down the negative emotions, I was actually guaranteeing they’d explode at a different time in a completely unpredictable way.
In other words, you can’t take detours around negative emotions without paying the price later on. Those emotions are there for a reason. The anger is there to teach you something. It’s your job to find out the lesson hiding behind the anger.
I didn’t want to be angry. But I needed to be angry.
Anger, I learned, is a proper and God-given response to injustice. When you are being unfairly treated, abused or witness the unfair treatment and abuse of others–you are supposed to get angry.
It is good to be offended by what is offensive.
If we are NOT angered by injustice, if we are NOT offended by what is offensive, then the only transformation we can hope for is a superficial one.
So, yes. I am angered by injustice and the ongoing, sexist treatment of women in the church. I am grieved that young men in the church are adopting and continuing these attitudes.
I am a woman. And I am angry.