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Transforming Anger Into Practical Compassion

Posted: February 24, 2016 by Rob Voyle

What would it be worth to you to live free from resentment?

What would it be worth to you to be able to lead a person to a place of
forgiveness and compassion?

While I am tired of living in a frightened and angry frightened world I am more
excited by being able to teach people how to forgive and live compassionately in
the world. Helping a person in one session get to the place when they can say
"22 years of resentment is gone," leaves me a place that is beyond words

Some have said that we need to be angry about the injustices we see. I would
heartily agree if my anger actually helped. What I have discovered is that when
I get angry I just contribute my own version of judgment and injustice to the
world. Or to put it in the words of St. Paul: "The anger of Rob does not work
the righteousness of God."

So what are we to do with the anger that arises when we see injustice. It needs
to be set free from the demands of our egos and transformed into a single minded
pursuit of a just future. I distinguish this from anger by calling it
fierceness. What do you notice when you are ego driven angry and when you are
fiercely pursuing justice?

Within myself I recognize a substantial difference between my being angry and my
being fierce.

When I am angry, I am aware of my stomach being in turmoil, there is also a lot
of "noise" in my head. Most of the noise is of angry imagined conversations with
the person who has angered me. It is not about justice its about "just us" or
just me to quote a line from Richard Pryor.

When I am fierce my focus is not in my stomach but my forehead and there is no
noise. It is as though I have become single minded and I have set my mind on a
course of action from which there is no turning back. I imagine this is the way
Jesus was when he "set his mind to Jerusalem," and told Peter to "get behind me

And the big question is HOW! How we do we move from ego driven anger to fiercely
pursuing justice.

The Gospel for this Sunday calls us to repent. The 3Rs of repentance,
"Recognize," "Regret," "Reorient," gives us a model for transformation:

More than recognizing that we are resenting, we need to "recognize" what we
actually do to resent. Resentment isn't something that others do to us, it is
what we do to ourselves in the darkness of what others have done to us. The key
thing to recognize is the demand nature of resentment. When we are angry we are
demanding that life and others would have been different according to our
desires. Demanding the past would have been different doesn't change the past
and just makes us miserable in the present.

We need to "regret" the cost and ineffectiveness of resenting. This is a huge
challenge for many who have been immersed in our culture that places a high
value on revenge, pay back, and primitive ideas of justice.

We need to "reorient" to a compassionate way of being that honors our values and
acknowledges that we live in a world that has and will continue to violate our
values. With respect to resentment we can transform our "demands" into a
"preferences" and then personally live those values in the world. For example,
if your preference is to live in a "kind world" then there really is only one
way you can ensure that there will be kindness in the world and that is by being
kind yourself.

In the forgiveness training program we will explore both your personal ways of
manifesting compassion and how to help people reorient their internal world of
resentment into a state of forgiveness.

Details can be found at

Waiting with compassion is one way to meet the challenge of staying in love. As
my beloved Kim says, "compassion, its not just for saints anymore."

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural
sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
  • Humorous: Creativity and humor go together as people enjoy new insights.
  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

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