For the past few days, I have been angry. I have been wronged. I have been afraid. I have been treated unjustly. And so, I have been angry.
Here’s the thing. I don’t like being angry. I don’t like myself when I am angry. I don’t want to continue to be angry. At the same time, that I am angry means there are problems to be solved, and things to be fixed. My anger helps me to do that.
Can I find a better way?
What would a better way be?
Is there a path to peace with those who wrong you? With those who do wrong knowingly?
What if I was the teacher, and these were my students doing wrong? How would that change things?
I get angry with students, frustrated, tired. But one thing that’s different when I am dealing with students: in these young people, almost without exception, no matter how bad the behavior may be, I am always trying to see through to the possibility that they can do right and grow into honorable, kind, productive human beings. In my interactions with them, I want them to see themselves as those honorable, kind, productive human beings. Or, with the possibility of becoming those honorable, kind, productive human beings. Whatever bad behavior I am called upon to address: it is their behavior; it is not their identity. I want to leave them with that image of themselves as greater, rather than lesser. I open up my heart as wide as I can so that they can see themselves as I can see them, full of promise, hope, possibility, honor.
You may have made a mess. But you are not a mess. You have all the potential that you need to be someone worthy and worthwhile. You get to decide what you do next and how you handle this. Choose well.
Can I do this with a 60 year old department chair too? Can I even try to see this from where he’s at? There is the world he knows well, the world he’s lived in, and the things he’s been taught because of his position. There is a major assumption of privilege. An ignorance of the day-to-day lives of those who report to him. Ignorance of the careers of those who require his good judgment and wisdom in handling our concerns. Perhaps he knows nothing of this. Never considered it to be important. Never saw the people in front of him as human beings, with ambitions and motivation just like him.
Is there the possibility of growth, honor, better in the future?
Of course there is a possibility for growth, honor, and better in the future. There may have been too much bad for me to want to remain for the long term. But can I uphold honor while advocating for fairness, can I be peaceful when addressing wrongs? Can I be courageous in facing those with more power than I have and, armed with little besides my integrity, be a force for good?
That is the standard I set for myself. To let go of the anger. To arm myself with integrity. To see the good and to help others see it. To allow myself to walk away where there is nothing to be gained or when too much has been lost, but to open the doors wide to change for the better where change is possible.
Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight one hundred battles without disaster. -Sun Tzu