"I realised, right then and there, that it was all wrong, and it all had to change. And that the change... had to start with me."
- Utah Phillips from Korea
So... in the past few days, things have been a bit wobbly in my world. In others' too. Thanks to a few folk who've cared enough to do a bit of an intervention, I've had a bit of a "road to Damascus" moment.
In short, I care a lot about a lot of things, remarkably intensely. Mostly about the state of my community and the broader world, and the way people in it behave or don't.
For better or worse, most of the time, my passion for fixing what I perceive to be broken (I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it) ends up manifesting itself as anger.
It's often seething anger that propels some of my creativity, and underlies my social and political activism. It takes a major toll on me to be this angry (high blood pressure among other things) and it's also sometimes hard on those around me.
I'm never physicially violent (I'm a committed pacifist) and instead I vent my frustration verbally and in writing (here on my blog and in social media). Even so, I've never liked my angry self. I've just accepted it because it was a pattern that sometimes resulted in positive creativity that I'm proud of. Or so I thought.
Sometimes the things I write are meant to be amusing, sometimes they're thoughtful and well researched, and other times they're designed to embarrass, hurt, and perhaps even intimidate people I think are doing wrong or not doing enough right. In my anger, I'm also somewhat prone, despite working hard to avoid it, to resorting to hyperbole and absolutes to make my point. I've realised that when do this, I undermine my good intentions and my aim - to make the world a better place for all of us (not just me).
A few people, over the years, have suggested to me, usually after seeing me issuing vitriol about something that I think is wrong and needs to change, that it's easier to attract people to ones causes "with honey than vinegar". Until this week, I thought my anger was justified. And perhaps it is. But, as I've finally accepted, it's not helpful, and it doesn't help me move towards my goals. I think the term some people use is "diplomacy".
The event that's brought about my change of heart is an instance of "friendly fire". I want to extend an unreserved apology to my friend and long time collaborator, aimee, to whom I was rude in public, and I made feel uncomfortable because I was so wrapped up in my anger and frustration that I fired volleys at her when she attempted to defuse my tirade against practices within New Zealand's government on Twitter.
I have initiated the process of getting professional assistance in anger management.
I would like to take full responsibility for my actions and the hurt I have caused. aimee - you didn't deserve to be a victim in this.
My goal now, as I await access to counselling (it'll take a month or so), is to recognise that people are generally trying to do the right thing, and everyone makes the odd mistake, myself included. It's what we do to take responsibility for our mistakes that matters most.
I will continue to work towards making my world a better place because there's no denying our passions. But instead of acting out of anger, I will do my darndest to use kindness and reason to rally support for reforming the systems and cultural patterns that I think aren't working in our best interests...
Rather than blaming, which is ultimately counter productive, my aim will be to engage with those in the midst of those systems and cultures to bring them along, because all change for the better depends on people and on their relationships.