Friday, 16 April 2010

Anger, rage and pain in terms of finding your voice

Some years ago a friend died from cancer. She was not ready to die and she was angry at the disease taking her life, her energy, her creativity, her future. She was an extraordinarily talented artist.
In the end she managed to say good bye to those nearest to her, and months before the end she asked me to take her funeral. I was still in parish ministry at that time and when I didn't spend my Mondays off at calligraphy class I would spend Monday with her.
On the day that I came back from my neurologist with the confirmation that I had my second MS incident - and therefore had MS - she turned up bringing with her the most perfectly arranged posy of flowers I have ever received and took me out to the lakeside to have ice-cream. I suppose my ministry to her was that I allowed her to be angry, and she knew how to be angry - not only at God but also at others. At the end of some of those Mondays I would sometimes be exhausted, partly because of the energy and integrity of her anger. It was her way of finding her voice in a desperate situation.
At her funeral one of the hymns we sang was Now the Green Blade Rises to Noël Nouvelet, it's a hymn I hope people might sing at my own funeral, it speaks deeply of resurrection and new life. However, there are also other words to this tune where one verse begins "Jesus Christ is raging, raging in the streets ..." Elemental anger is so rarely part of our spirituality and yet any reading of the Psalms whould help us see how important "imprecation" and expressing prayerful anger in pretty colourful language can be.
I've been thinking about my friend and her brilliant and frightening anger and also about the challenge of the this year's theme at our feminist theology group - finding your voice, finding your way. How do we find our voice when we are angry and raging? It's a particular challenge for women I think. Our societies find it hard enough as it is to listen to women, to treat our input as of equal value; we are immediately seen as "aggressive" when we challenge people or issues (when a man would be seen as "tough").
So what does this mean for finding our voice, for me finding my voice? I've revistied an old post on anger and on Lytta Basset's Holy Anger and in many ways I almost feel I have nothing to add - and I would still use as my starting point the great quote from Brecht: "Even anger against injustice makes the voice grow harsh. Alas we who wished to lay the foundations of kindness could not ourselves be kind." As I consider my own anger and rage - which is different from that of my friend in her illness, but no less elemental - I wonder about how I can possibly speak in a way that can be heard given the passion of emotion. I wonder too about whether given strong emotions I am even able to listen to myself and hear my own voice or know what it might be?
My friend in her pain at her situationi did not question her right to be angry, perhaps I too as an angry and passionate person need to accept this about myself and learn to find my voice.
Meanwhile I give thanks that at my friend's funeral I preached about beauty and creativity, and that anger was part of that.


Deirdre said...

Thank you so much for this post. Expressing and redirecting anger is something I work on. Anger has so much energy! Your post reminded me of Dylan Thomas' "rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Being raised the way we were is more often than not an impediment :) And as we know now pent up anger can lead to depression amongst other things.

Claudine said...

I too struggle with expressing my anger... in a manner that is not destructive. Very difficult indeed. I live with someone who has a tendency to express anger in a destructive manner, and all I can say is that it is very difficult to be in the fall-out, even if the anger is not directed towards me personally. "Righteous" anger was something that Jesus expressed, but he had the secret of how to do it... and it is something we culturally are uncomfortable with. The challenge is to express the anger in a way that does not burnt us up in the process....