Do you ever wake up feeling guilty or angry with yourself? Contrary to popular belief, anger and guilt aren’t about self-control– they’re catalysts for change.
One of the perks of old age is that I seldom do things that make me feel guilty. The majority of my guilt comes from things I don’t do.
There’s a lot to be said about our conscious. In “Is Self-Esteem a Social Construct or the Soul’s Self-Awarness” I wrote about how our “self” is stamped with the knowledge of right and wrong, and how it comes with a moral imprint. While this is true, all guilt doesn’t necessarily come from immorality. Nor is all anger wrong.
I’ve battled bouts of guilt all week. Like, every time I look at my dog. Poor girl can’t see me because I’ve failed to take the time to cut holes out of her mop for her eyes. I’ve been guilty of not calling my mother–and getting lost in Facebook when I should be working, just to name a few. All of these things seem minor on the surface. But they do in fact diminish the quality of my life, and those I love–in small and large ways.
Recently, I woke up under a severe reality attack–another failure, I’d been too busy to realize. I failed to continue both my series. The works on Ernest Becker that I began here, and creative recovery which began as a promise to my daughter. While I consider both important for several reasons, guess which one held enough guilt to induce anger at myself?
I made commitments on two levels. First to my daughter who once begged, “Come draw with me mama.” The idea of this creative series was to explore and revitalize our creative lives as artists, and bring our PJ readers along for the ride. Our thirteen-week adventure The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron fizzled out in just four weeks.
My theory is that when we fail to do something that we know is right or would enrich our lives and relationships–it’s more of a spiritual battle than one of self-discipline.
When confronted with failure of any sort Michael Hyatt explains we have three options: recommit, revise or remove.
I chose to recommit. That’s when I learned about anger.
Julia Cameron writes:
“ANGER IS FUEL. We feel it and want to do something. Hit someone, break something, throw a fit, smash a fist into the wall, tell those bastards. But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it, lie about it, medicate it, muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it.
Anger is meant to be listened to, anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way, not just the finger. In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health.
Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out. Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as a fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us.” [Emphasis mine]
Being angry with ourselves for not doing what we want to do or what we need to do is easily transformed into defeat and guilt. We take mental swings at ourselves. What’s worse, we take it–believing we deserve the beating. But as Cameron explains, there’s another option. We can listen, it’s telling us what to do.
Have you ever had a book or movie idea only to have someone beat you to the shelves? I have. “That was my idea!” I’ve sulked. Julia would say, your anger is telling you that ideas only turn into books and screenplays when written and pitched–so write!”
Anger and guilt are not the enemy to be shunned, or stuffed. It’s the fuel for change.
The real enemy is procrastination. The three worst words we can utter are “someday I will…” Those words create a comfortable seat to watch the world go by, or your little girl grow up.
With this full tank of new fuel, I’m recommitting.
This time it’s going to be harder because there is a bigger problem than anger to battle.
There’s transformation and dedication.
“Answered prayers are scary. They imply responsibility…We all have our Africas, those dark and romantic notions that call to our deepest selves. When we answer that call, when we commit to it, we set in motion the principle that C.G. Jung dubbed synchronicity, loosely defined as a fortuitous intermeshing of events…I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.”
I’m choosing not to control the anger or hide the guilt of failure. I’m following Julia’s rule, I’ll not question whether I can do this. Instead, I’m recommitting to exploring the gift of creativity and daring to explore my own “Africa” and taking you and Emily along too.
Watch your step and buckle down, following God’s creative voice is a wild ride.
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