ANGER MANAGEMENT

I was given my anger. I was not born with it and I certainly didn't go looking for it. It is difficult for me to see how it has changed me because I feel like the same me I have always been. But Mrs MP can pinpoint the exact time of the change in my personality. It happened just after Bishop Martin Wharton tried to give me the sack for suffering from a depression caused by being sent to work with an evil man. Mrs MP will never go back to church again and I am unsure if she even retains her faith. She doesn't like my anger and she knows who is to blame for it.

Since posting about it yesterday I have been thinking about this anger of mine. For a start it is not an anger that is aggressive towards everyone. I don't start fights and when Mrs MP and myself exchange words I moan and complain but I never hurl insults at my wife. My anger is never physical.

Secondly, my posts on my anger, in fact posts on myself on any matter, are few when compared to all the other stuff I post on my blog and website. OCICBW... is an angry blog, it always has been, but it is anger on behalf of other people, it is anger against that which is wrong.

So should I be looking to rid myself of this anger?

One thing I am sure about is that I shouldn't surpress it.

Another thing I know is that I am the person who has to do something about things when others avoid confrontation because their view is that "it's not worth it." I don't think people should "get away with it." Life is crappy but just think how much crappier it would be if there hadn't been people in the past who were angry enough to risk everything to change things for the better. In my book that includes Jesus Christ.

I am advised to do something about it. But what do you think I have been doing? OCICBW... and Saint Laika's don't write themselves and I have been pushing to make them a viable full time ministry for myself for a long time now. There are enough people out there who want this to happen for me to know I'm not just pissing in the wind on this one.

Let's get one thing straight. I would rather die than take up employment in a non-priestly vocation. I cannot imagine what it is like to be a "woman trapped in a man's body," but my guess is that it is very similar to being a priest trapped in a shelf-stacker's body. I am not being flippant here; there are some vocations in life (and not just the priesthood by any means) that are as much a part of a person's very being as their sexuality. In fact, I could give up sex a lot easier than I could give up being a priest (although I don't intend to do either).

Anger is just an emotion. It is painful at times but then so is love. In fact, my anger is, more than anything else, a yearning just as my love is.

Comments

ANGER MANAGEMENT — 17 Comments

  1. MP, your last line is poignant about anger and love. Anger is part of life but, rightly or wrongly, eventhough it is a part of expressing oneself there do seem to be limits set by society etc on how much anger is acceptable. If it is ruining one’s life then it is not acceptable. I have found this to be true myself. May I ask why this is causing concern to you at this particular time?

  2. MP – when I read your post yesterday I was delighted – delighted to see you own your anger, that is, not delighted at what had caused it. Anger is not a sin. Jesus is angry several times. Moreover, unacknowledged anger is a prime cause of depression. Anger is the gift of God that allows His people to combat injustice and wrong. The art of anger management is to know when that injustice is on the inside (eg an overblown sense of pride) or when it is on the outside (eg bullying, abuse etc). The solution to the former is prayer, the solution to the latter is direct action – prophetic denunciation and drama, like making a whip to drive the traders out of the temple.

    Never be ashamed of your anger, just work out what God wants you to do with it. And note also that anger is different from wrath – with anger there is still a relationship involved (anger is something that can heal a relationship, like the cut of the surgeon’s knife can cut out a cancer) but wrath comes from abandoning the relationship and simply nurturing a grudge and a desire for vengeance – that’s what ‘letting the sun set on your anger’ means if you ask me.

    Anger is what drives the search for truth and justice – and I believe that is where your anger must drive you. Keep telling the story; one day the church will wake up to its own shame.

    Not much comfort for now, I know. By the way, whilst I am here, can I strongly recommend that you start charging a nominal amount for downloading your services (eg 50p a pop, or maybe less)? The labourer deserves his wages.

  3. Disappointment, Chelliah. I am an eternal optimist which means I put my trust in others and always believe, to begin with, that they will do the right thing. This gives me some respite from my anger for a while as hope takes over. But then when I discover it’s going to be the same old same old the anger comes back with a vengeance.

    My anger may be outside of society’s norms but it is well within the law and my long experience of it gives me no cause to worry that it will ver be anything else. In fact, it is my belief in law and “the right thing” that gives reason and direction to my anger.

  4. Thanks, Sam. You may have said something of extreme importance to me – a revelation no less. I had always assumed that my mastery over my illness for the last ten years (or whatever) was down to my will-power and medication. If, as you suggest, my depression was caused by suppressed anger (and I can see how that could be the case) then maybe my lack of serious depression is due to the fact that I have been openly angry ever since I started getting better. I am not sure exactly how this knowledge will help me but I think it just might. I will think about it.

  5. To be honest, Chelliah, for myself I don’t expect the church to have particularly high principles. I expect the people with authority in the church to behave towards me and other people in the same way you, and pretty much everyone else who visits this blog, behaves towards me and towards each other.

  6. MP, I struggle with the same. Why do most Christians believe that those on welfare benefit only have themselves to blame? Look at the disabled who are suffering. Are they to blame? Blimey!

  7. MP, I don’t know you, I lurk a lot on your blog because I find it amusing and sometimes helpful, and I have no right whatsoever to offer you unsolicited advice, but as I’m a busybody and have some time on my hands, here goes …

    I think you’re very right about prophetic anger being necessary. Prophets exist to make people feel uneasy with the status quo, and this often leads them to very difficult places, and to experience rejection, and so on. If you feel this to be your vocation, however, you must know that you have chosen, or been called, down such a difficult path, and that the last place you might be able to feel comfortable is within the institution which you feel called to prophesy against. You perhaps need to think some more about how such a prophetic vocation might or might not fit with a priestly vocation within the CofE as it currently is (or indeed, ever was or will be).

    And you’re probably right about anger and depression being linked. However, I also think there is a lot of research on the negative health effects of long-term anger as well as of depression, and on the fact that acting out anger can perpetuate it further and lead into vicious cycles of anger without possibility of resolution. It isn’t as simple as thinking that repressing anger is bad and expressing it is good. And there’s a whole middle area of acknowledging anger without needing to express it or act it out. Expressing it is the one thing most likely to perpetuate it.

    Perhaps the main thing I wanted to advise was to think about how your expressed anger (however justified or justifiable) might be getting in the way of you achieving some of your aims, thus making you feel even angrier. For example, if I was your local vicar wanting to meet and talk to you about you possibly doing some stuff in my churches, I’d be pretty miffed if I read your last post and cartoon characterising me as uncaring because unable to find you space in my diary. It looks to me as though the senior priest you spoke to in another diocese gave you the standard advice (which you surely must know to be good advice from your own experience – it’s certainly mine) not to expect to find a priest with lots of time to talk during Holy Week or the week after, unless in a dire emergency. Indeed, the next round of service planning is likely to begin just after this, so that would be a great time to talk to the vicar, rather than when they are stressed or knackered by Holy Week.

    It was then just unlucky that your vicar turned out to be the only priest in Christendom who decided to take a break the following week instead, and that you’re away the week after. This isn’t the church’s ‘fault’, and it’s only in your mind that it’s a symbol of an ecclesiastical tendency to put off those who need it, rather than a simple unfortunateness of circumstance. But your posts on this issue have the potential fatally to damage your relationship with your vicar before you’ve even met them; this would then give you the reason you need to find the church rejecting you again, making you angry … just as your statements about the church and its leadership on this blog over the past few years seem to be a, or the, major factor in making you unemployable by that church (which is behaving here just as any other organisation would in that situation).

    In the end, it seems to me, the only healthy thing for you to do is to decide that a) you will say all the things you feel prophetically called to say, and recognise that this will not make you popular and is highly unlikely to lead you back into stipendiary priestly ministry, or b) that you need to find a way of channeling that anger inside the institution, which will involve coming to terms with some ordinary social realities (people don’t like being written about on the internet in derogatory terms, and are highly unlikely to employ you or want you near them if you do this to them).

  8. I am not convinced that I chose my present vocation, Zenia. It feels more like I was pushed into by circumstance or God. The problem with the “anger is bad for you” advice is that I have tried, many times, to come to terms with my anger, but nothing gets rid of it for long. I have to find a realistic, workable way of dealing with the problem.

    I have always taken the view that everybody’s problem, no matter how insignificant it might seem to me, is the biggest and most urgent problem in the world at the time I am told about it. When I was a parish priest if I was contacted about a funeral during Holy Week, I would be round to the bereaved that same day. Therefore, I am being told that in the eyes of the senior priest and the vicar, my problem is not very important. I can wait. And I have been waiting for over nine months now (quite patiently for me). At the moment I am not an employed priest under anybody’s authority so I should be treated like a member of the laity with a problem or, to be exact, how I would treat a member of the laity with a problem they had asked me to help sort out. I doubt that many people would take this sort of bad service off their bank manager. Why is it that we take it off those in the Church who are paid by us to look after us?

  9. If I were the senior priest Madpriest has spoken about in these honest but unflattering terms, I would work hard to prove Madpriest wrong. The little that I know of Madpriest, I think he will correct his perception on his blog once he is proven wrong. Rudo

  10. Jonathan:
    reading both of your posts i am deeply touched by two things:
    your honesty and courage
    and the deep caring of so many of our community for the effect your treatment by the Church is having on you and Ms. MP.

    a parallel situation might be someone who has been mugged ( in your case by the Rector you worked with and your subsequent treatment by the heirarchy).
    mugged by the Church- and unfortunately, you are far from being its first victim.

    that said, even now, it is my sense there are options.
    one can wait for the system to kick in:bring the truth to light, charge the gulty and recognize the victims, or, when this has not happened one can name the effects of the mugging (as you have done), and find the resources both within and without oneself to end the tyrany of this horrible act. a process which unfortunately might include giving up on any expectations from ‘the system.’

    i think it should be clear that you and Ms. P. are folks of incredible strength and grace: that the two of you have survived and that you have been through and keep on striving for something better.

    however, it is my experience that there comes a time when we might have to let go of something wounding and costly to allow the space and possibility for Spirit to work FOR and WITH us for the ‘life more abundantly’ God wants for us.

    at moments like this the bottom line becomes what this is costing you personally, and i see concern about this reflected in several of the caring comments.

    from all appearances, tragically, the heirarchy doesn’t appear to give a flying….. whatever about what’s happened. but the only thing we can do anything about is the cost this is continuing to inflict on you.

    having been mugged in similar contexts more than once:following your blog, and sitting with what i read, i can’t help but wonder if there might not be income for you in offering the skills you have acquired in building these sophisticated sites, within the non-profit and small business sector . it won’t make you rich, but would actually be a means of extending both your priesthood and values online.

    personally, I am struggling on zero income at present, and trying to hold on to my tiny house, or i would have become one of your regular subscribers. and it is my sense that many might be in such a situation during these trying times.

    as to that priesthood, Jonathan, I’ve literally wept over your beautiful love of your vocation, its relevance and the battering it has suffered. for me THERE IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST DOUBT ‘Thou art a priest forever,’ to quote the order of ordination, only it appears that Ruach is wanting to do something more original and sophisticated with your priesthood than most. and for that to happen perhaps the ongoing effects of the toxic treatment you suffered has to be put in its place.

    naming and owning the anger is but the first healthy step. the question then becomes what you will choose to do with it, and with your skills, with your gifts it could be……interesting to say the very least!

    deo.mtl@gmail.com

  11. Thanks, david. And thanks especially for mentioning my wife. I may be confused about my own feelings on the matter but there is one thing I am a one hundred percent sure about and that is that Mrs MP really does not want me to go back into parish ministry (or work directly for the Church of England in any capacity). She is not an optimist like me. She can be too pessimistic at times but her belief that I would never fit in with the church as it now is, is almost definitely correct. But she is also very unhappy about our financial situation and provides the major pressure on me to do something more profitable with my life. She can see no reason why I should not stack shelves for a living. I rarely disobey my wife but on this matter of “a priest and only a priest” is something that I will not back down on. Therefore, I always feel a sense of urgency – I do worry that she will leave me.

    I think it is obvious that I should decide once and for all (well, once and for the foreseeable future) to stop investing any energy and concern in getting a job with the church. To be honest, it has now got to the stage where I am equating a church job with earning money so that Mrs MP will be happy and I will be able to spend some money on myself. I think if I was able to earn an acceptable wage some other way without believing that I was no longer a priest, I would be able to accept such the decision to let go of the church. I’ve even been thinking of ways I could worship somewhere without committing to the ministry of that place.

    I need to sort out how I structure my working day. I need to spend more time on working on “product” rather than chat. I would like to spend more time on writing, providing something for the laity rather than just the priesthood. I would like to spend more time on Saint Laika’s. The thing is I am scared that if I stop being such a big presence on my blog and Facebook, I will stop getting the financial support I now get as I won’t be around so much to remind people I exist.

  12. Jonathan
    i hear and identify with Ms. MP’s concerns about you returning to a place within the Church hierarchy. and while i understand her concern about stocking-shelves-possibilities, I’d suggest it’s up to us to find a workable alternative.
    going about my day here in Montreal, the potential for applying the gifts you manifest in both of your sites has stayed with me. at one point i even contacted a corporate contact in another city and asked them to look at your two sites. i hope i wasn’t mis-representing you as essentially self-taught in web design, but my contact was impressed and agreed that you have a lot to offer a particular niche.
    not only have you designed two multi-featured sites; you’ve integrated both pay pal and amazon terminals; you’ve added interactive elements like the prayer candles and a rich assortment of links- to say nothing of your cheeky photo montages. in addition, your skills as an online researcher are remarkable.
    all of these services you could offer through a third web site (J.H.Design ?).
    i also emailed a former Montreal who worked in web design for several years to pitch the possibility of a marketing strategy. Starting with non-profits who may have e-mail but no web-site. you essentially would be a lost-cost alternative to the agencies and almost any of them woulld benefit from your services, especially if you included paypal and amazon features. any article or news story you read would become a possible source. does the group mentioned have a web site? no? you contact them with an offer. likewise perhaps, your local arts council.
    by targeting the groups you approach you are acting on the part of your priestly vocation which is Jonathan the facilitator, rather than the preacher and parish administrator. and with time you might even wish to expand the services you offer to web master.
    my sense is you design the site and get it out there, and then slightly re-focus the scope of your online research- ‘casting your bread upon the waters’. you essentially already have all you needed to establish two thoroughly professional sites- which will stand as extremely credible examples of your work- and now you’re offering to do it for others- at a reasonable, competitive price. you’ve done it all, already, and in the process just might end up showing a few…. unmentionables a new way of healing the world.
    deo.mtl@gmail.com