NOT PUBLISHED ON KSL
Watching the protests and riots across the country this weekend, I have been reminded of an important truth, which may help us understand anger and what is behind it. The truth is, anger comes from feeling threatened, unsafe, or unloved. When someone is angry or hurt, it is usually because they feel mistreated, taken from, or not cared about on some level. Watching the riots and looting can distract us from hearing what the anger is really about. Protesters are trying to express the pain they feel from long standing systemic racism and they are requesting love and fairness.
Before I explain how we need to listen and understand other people, it is important to understand what racism really is. In the book, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, she explains that we have been taught to see racism as "intentional acts of racial discrimination committed by immoral individuals". If you define racism this way, then most of us are not racist. The problem is that socialized racism is much bigger, more widespread, and more ingrained in each of us than this definition covers. An entrenched culture of racism in this country has made a large group of us feel rejected, disrespected, and unloved for a very long time. People of color are trying to tell us that they don’t feel valued, seen, appreciated, cared about, nor safe. They are in a fear state all the time and are tired of expecting mistreatment every time they leave their house. This is something that as a white person, we cannot even begin to understand, but we have to try and we have to listen.
The pain and anguish that people of color feel, includes rejection, inferiority, hate, shame, and anger at not being seen as the precious, infinitely, absolutely, and equally valuable beings they are. They are children of God made in His image, by Him, and of Him, though they rarely feel treated as such. It is important to understand that these angry emotions are a desperate request for love, acceptance, equality, kindness, respect, and brotherhood. The anger is not born of hate, it is born of love, and a hope that the world will finally love them in the way they (and all humans) deserve.
We need to listen and understand what their anger is saying and we need to listen at a deeper level than we are used to going. Most of the time when you listen to another person, you are primarily listening to help you formulate what you are going to say back. Rarely are you open enough to hear, understand, validate, and even change your opinions, based on their thoughts and feelings. Most of the time you don't listen to understand and learn something new. Our ego's are not comfortable with this level of listening, because it opens us up to being wrong.
The time has come for better listening to other people and this means setting down our defensiveness and even be open to attack, guilt, and shame for our ignorance and selfishness (something all white people are guilty of, simply because the problems of racism don’t affect us. We haven’t cared enough to change, because life the way it is, is comfortable for us and doesn't cause us pain.)
Instead of defending ourselves or speaking about our moral views and opinions, we need to stop talking and really listen. We have to look behind their anger so we can understand what drives it. We must also understand that anger, acting out, and lashing out are, at their core, a plea or request for love. We know this because all behavior is either loving or a request for love.
If you will really think about the last time you got really angry, you will see that you also felt unloved, unappreciated, or unvalued at some level. Your anger was a request for love too.
Obviously anger and violence is not the best way to request love, but we all request love this way. When you and I feel unloved or mistreated we lash out too, and the other person we are angry with, often sees our anger as an attack against them. They very rarely can see the bad behavior as a request for love. Nevertheless, that is exactly what it is. I am not going to tell you it is easy to see anger accurately though. It takes wisdom and maturity to see behavior as coming from fear of not being loved (respected or cared for), but we can do it with practice.
Our brothers and sisters of color want us to see them. They want us to see their hearts, their struggles, their pain, worthiness, glory, divinity, goodness, godliness, and worth. They want us to understand no person exists that God did not create. No one exists who is not worthy of respect, honor, and love. When you look at any human being, you must see God in them and you must be open and willing to listen and understand them. You must validate their right to feel mistreated, and remember that you cannot begin to understand what life in their shoes has been like.
So, what can you do?
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.