A few months ago I read A Force For Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World by Daniel Goleman. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom imparted by the Dalai Lama, particularly centering around compassion for other people and trying to make the world a better place for all, not just a particular group. It is more than just a book, but a growing movement.
One section in the book took me a bit by surprise, though, which discussed the topic of constructive anger. Interestingly, Goleman and the Dalai Lama make the argument that a certain shade of anger can be used to correct wrongful situations, such as when people are being hurt or when there are injustices being committed. They say that targeted anger used for constructive purposes can increase attention and focus in an area and motivate action. However, when the anger itself takes over to the point of continued agitation, obsession and even hatred, then it is not at all positive and self control is lost. In other words, let the actual feeling of anger subside and resolve to take action in a more calm and focused manner. Practice restraint rather than hatred.
“Keep a calm mind, study the situation, then take a countermeasure. If you let a wrongdoing happen, it might continue and increase, so, out of compassion, take appropriate countermeasures…If you have the ability, you must stop the wrongdoing,” says the Dalai Lama.
He continues to say that it is equally important to have compassion for those committing the wrongdoing, to forgive them without accepting what they’ve done. Distinguish the act itself from the person or people involved, as there is hope that, through compassion and targeted countermeasures, the perpetrators can reform. Do not let destructive emotions win through jealousy, revenge and rage.
I have personally struggled with this in life – searching for compassion for people or groups that I feel have wronged me or caused harm to others. Some I am still seeking to bring justice to, and still have difficulty to this day finding some sort of resolution in myself. I feel there are different degrees or levels of severity that can make things more difficult to reconcile. For one of my biggest battles, I am trying to separate the acts from the actors, as Goleman wrote, and stand up to some bullies with compassion. My hope is that the true perpetrators will be brought to justice and the rest of the individuals involved will be freed from their mental constraints so they stop being harmful to themselves and others.