Fire & Water: Holding Space for Revolutionary Anger

Anger is a call to action, a just and moral response.  Anger can be fuel. And yet anger without skill, without wisdom, is like a fire that can burn everything, including myself.  

I felt a wave of anger wash over me last night as I read about the sentencing of an activist to a year in prison, with six months no parole. He was part of a recent successful blockade of the world’s largest coal port near Newcastle (north of Sydney) for 10 days, actions I’d found inspiring and important post-COP.  

I watched my anger at his sentencing & the police overreach meld with rage at the unjustness of it all.  Rage at the ecocide that happens around us.  Rage at legal & media bias, at the general unfairness, at the fact this is where we’ve come to. 

This frustration is nothing new – the Government of Australia represents so few of my values, so little compassion, humility or love.  It struggles to use its imagination, so attached to the status quo.

I remind myself that change doesn’t happen in the headlines. It happens in the margins, the liminal, the spaces in-between.  I know that the change I seek won’t come from government, rather will come to transform government. 

And yet I also sit with what to do with this anger.  The fury and rage and grief for all that is lost, all that is unjust, all that is not okay with the world.  

The spiritual upbringing I had taught me to avoid anger. That it was based in fear, a ‘negative’ emotion, and that I would better serve focusing on what I want to create. 

The activist side of me would tell me that anger is useful, a call to rise up, to hold those in power accountable for what happens.  That anger is right and just and moral, to let it fuel me into action.  To not let go, and to hold on to its power. 

Both are true in parts, though neither complete on their own.  Anger is a call to action, a just and moral response.  Anger can be fuel. And yet anger without skill, without wisdom, is like a fire that can burn everything, including myself.  

Anger unchecked, unexamined, leads to conflict, to twitter wars, to bitterness, partisanship & division, to burnout and to violence (physical or emotional). 

And so what we need is not to avoid our anger, not to bypass it it while we speak of loving our enemies, or to push it down while we continue with business as usual, but also not to have it consume is, allowing our anger to control the flow of our thoughts and actions, assuming that change comes from our rage alone.

Like all fires, we need the water, the flow, to temper our anger and guide it.  

My anger at this time exists for a reason. It is both a bodyguard to the grief & sadness I feel at this time.  (For anyone who’s seen Morning Wars recently, as Bradley says,  “I’m not angry, I’m hurt, anger is just what I know what to do with”.)

And my anger is also a call to action. To not be complacent. To not settle back. To never forget that we are in a liminal space and time in the world, and that if we want the future that we dream of, that we must work actively to dismantle the systems that work against it.  

I don’t subscribe to a philosophy of good versus evil, but I do believe we must actively disrupt systems that exist to perpetuate business as usual  However, dismantling systems of injustice cannot be centred just on a person, policy or position, but must also include the very mindset that allowed us to reach the point we’re at; the disconnection of our selves from life.  

Our anger should be informing our actions, but not determining of them, and must be tempered with wisdom.   

So today I sit with my anger. I remind myself of my commitment to nonviolence, and I explore the ways I do and don’t yet embody it.  I engage with and re-commit to my own activism. I let my anger inform me of my sadness, holding space for it,  and I let it ignite my passion, my love, and all that which I am called to.

If you’re wanting to unpack the power & troubles of  anger, consider joining Love & Anger starting in early 2022.


The In-Between

Navigating transitions - personal, professional, societal - can be tricky work. So often when we...

Resting When It’s Hard

If you’ve been reading my work a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about internalised...

The Third Way

 Years ago, I had a conversation with my therapist around accepting certain family dynamics as...

Hope in an age of despair

Hope is a practice. It is the stubborn commitment to believe in possibilities that we cannot yet...

Hot Take: Leadership Is Not The Same Thing As Power

Hot take. Just because you’re in a position of power, doesn’t mean that you are a leader. A common...

Gracious Limits

This is a Guest Post by Carol Wilson, the Founder and Transformative Conversation Guide for Table...