Every day brings things to get angry about, from human apathy destroying the planet, to global injustices and political stupidity. We need to get angry enough about these things to get up and challenge them. All too often what happens instead is that our energy and rage is focused on much smaller and more personal issues. There have been some great comments here on the blog recently about the importance of assuming people online mean well, and being willing to listen so as to develop our own compassion (Andrew and Sean, and thank you!).
Every kind of opinion and belief is out there waiting on the internet to offend and frustrate you, and any number of trolls lurk in wait for victims. There is simply no point getting angry about this one, it just feeds them. I think we mostly know that, even if we do still get drawn in.
Then there are those situations when the other person goes that bit further, making accusations, getting personal, dishonouring you. Whether those are public situations with strangers, or private situations with people we know, those are hellish, and the desire to wrathfully defend honour is enormous. This is the point at which we may look to our wider community for justice (by which we invariably mean support for ourselves). From observation and personal experience, this is not reliably forthcoming, for all the reasons I was talking about in the Druid in conflict post. Then what? A tattered reputation, recriminations, anger, sometimes bad enough to tear whole communities apart. It’s rare that anyone wins one of these, whether they deserved to, or not.
What happens when we get angry? We assert our case, make accusations, take the dirty laundry out into a public place… The thing is that when you arrange it so that shit hits the fan, pretty much everyone ends up wearing it. Often these things start small, a word out of place, an angry exchange, then digging up some history, and an escalation, often enabled by the wider community, until you reach a point of no return. By the time you’re venting angry words online in defence of your knowledge, skills, status, beliefs… it probably is too late. Part of the trick, I think, is nipping this sort of stuff in the bud before it gets out of hand.
Here’s an example. Last week, in a public forum, someone said something that most definitely implied I was stupid and irresponsible. As it happened said critic had made some wholly wrong assumptions about what I’d just posted. I could have got angry and defensive. What I chose to do was apologise politely for any confusion caused, and then explained. There was no come back, no escalation. I also had the pleasure of making said critic look like an idiot without actually being rude. Win!
I thank people who tell me things I did not know and offer counter-arguments because I am genuinely grateful for those. I learn a lot from the folk who see things differently, and am pro difference, not threatened by it. I don’t get any heated arguments there. I also like offering people free use of the blog to expound on different perspectives. I find that sees off the trolls. It’s very easy to write ‘here’s a total over simplification of the issue’ on someone else’s work, a lot harder to come up with the goods when invited to do so. And of course if they did, that would be win all round, and we’d all learn something.
If someone imputes your honour, and you respond by yelling abuse at them, threatening them or calling them stupid… the odds of coming out of that looking good are slim. If you can draw a deep breath and try to respond with compassion, politeness, and patience so much the better. It’s not easy to avoid being patronising, but worth a shot. If you persistently uphold your politeness, people are much less likely to take against you, less ammo is handed to those who would use it, and sometimes, the whole problem goes away. You have upheld your honour, by acting honourably. I’m amazed how many people seem to miss that one online. Everything we do is part of our Druidry, including what happenes when we’re really pissed off.
Leaving us time to go back to the much more important business of challenging governments and big business and trying to save the world.