“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
Augustine of Hippo
Hello Friends of SARA,
I’ll be blunt: there is a lot to be angry about. Mass shootings, deadly racial injustice, attacks on the bodies of women and LGBTQ+ folks, economic strain…and that’s just the first few things that come to mind. I am angry. More importantly, I’m okay with being angry.
One of the more common misconceptions about resilience is that there is no room for anger. We are to focus on gratitude, hope, and optimism, right? Look on the bright side! Find the silver lining! Count your blessings. Yeah, well…sorta. I make no secret that I used to struggle with the concept of optimism. I know by the nature of our work at SARA, that horrible, unjust things happen and there are no rose-colored glasses pink enough for that kind of pain.
It wasn’t until I came to understand that optimism has nothing to do with head-in-the-sand cheerfulness that I could wholeheartedly embrace optimism. If we are to be optimistic and hopeful, we need to be able to feel anger at the way things are so we can be courageous enough to change them. Rebecca Traister, in her book, “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger,” challenges us (women in particular) to not push down or push away anger, but to think, act, and integrate it into our lives just as we do with joy or sadness. Sociological researcher and author, Brene Brown acknowledges that “owning our pain and bearing witness to struggle means getting angry. When we deny ourselves the right to be angry, we deny our pain.” She warns, however, that holding onto or internalizing anger exhausts us, numbs us to joy, and makes us less effective in our efforts. This begs the question, how can anger be integrated into agents of optimism, hope, and resilience?
I think Pride month is a great example of just this very thing. Pride grew from the roots of the Stonewall riots, an angry push against oppression. That anger still exists in that space—it must! But it is also a celebration; a stake in the ground claiming the absolute right to joy, belonging, and wholeness. That is optimism
worth banking on. So, on this first day of Pride month, I wish you just the right amount of anger and courage along with an extra dose of joy and celebration.
Renee Branson, CReC, MA