Listening to Outrage - Are We Doing it Wrong?

Sometimes we share with others our sense of anger and outrage on matters that we are not directly related to. This practice is often thought of as a way to be prophetic and/or bring about change. It also has a "martyring" effect in that it could bring harm to the one expressing outrage (such as one expressing outrage over Presidents Trump or Obama may feel like they are "taking one for the team"). However, there is some evidence to suggest this action is self-serving. Here is the opening lines from the study:

When people publicly rage about perceived injustices that don't affect them personally, we tend to assume this expression is rooted in altruism—a "disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others." But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern—what social scientists refer to as "moral outrage"—is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one's own status as a Very Good Person. (

The article goes on to talk about this in depth, but the part I want to highlight is how to listen to outrage.

Often we listen to outrage of others with a desire to let the other person know we understand. One way we do this is by taking on some of their outrage. This "taking on" aspect of emotions of another person is over-functioning and inserting yourself into the center of the story of another. When someone inserts themselves into the center of my outrage, then I am quick to let that person carry my outrage for me. Meaning, that I will outsource my outrage to anyone who will be willing to carry it for me so that I don't have to deal with it. 

Listening to the outrage of another means that you are willing to let them own their emotions and give them the space to do the work that is needed to learn from the emotions. If we take the work that is theirs to do, then we are stunting another in their maturation.

When we listen to outrage, it is important to remember that the emotions of the one outraged are their own feelings and you don't have to own them. When we take on the rage of another then we cannot deal with our own emotional lives - thus stunting our own maturation. 

Why Repenting is so Difficult (maybe not for the reason we think)

Lent can be identified as the season of repenting. Repenting is the idea of turning around and come back to God. Christians often talk about repentance, but I am not sure that makes us better at it. This might be because we forget the most difficult part of repentance is not turning back to God. The hardest part of repentance is admitting that we were going in the wrong direction to begin with.

 When we think our path is so beautiful and perfect, what makes us think we are on the wrong path to begin with? 

When we think our path is so beautiful and perfect, what makes us think we are on the wrong path to begin with? 

Repenting is difficult because we have to be humble enough to admit that the way we see or the actions we do are wrong. We don't like to admit that. We are good at justifying our actions and rationalizing our behavior. We are also very good at seeing how others are going the wrong way and how we think "they" should repent. It is easy to want to walk in the ways of life and love; that is not the difficult part. The hard part is admitting that the ways we think are full of life and love may in fact be totally misguided.

Curiosity over Inquiry

In our current polarized political and social climate, many have observed that some of us stay in a little bubble, insulated from hearing others. This is a problem. Part of the solution to the little bubbles we live in is asking questions. If we think that it is unhealthy for everyone to live insulated from one another, then questions are a way that we can move beyond ourselves, develop empathy, and foster understanding. In my observation, the problem with that solution is that we have forgotten how to ask questions to achieve this end. Specifically, we are a people who inquire over a people who are curious.

Inquiring is a word that comes from an idea of "seeking". Seeking is something that we do when we know what we are looking for. When I lose my keys, I seek them out. I know what they look like and so when I find them I know it right away. Bono and the band U2 know what they are seeking in the song says "I still haven't found what I'm lookin' for."  

When the spiritual journey is framed as a quest seeking a known variable, then we will ask questions like an inquirer. When we ask questions of another in the spirit of inquiring, then we are are not checking our judgment at the door. Sometimes our questions, under the guise of understanding, are in fact just a way to gain knowledge to build an effective counter-argument. Inquiring is the way of asking questions that does not require us to leave our own biases and judgments out of the question. Journalists are great at inquiring because they are looking for something (usually a story, but the best journalists are more curious.) Journalists often know ahead of time how they want an interview to go, so they use particular inquiries to direct the conversation to their desired destination. 

Curiosity is a word that comes from the Latin word "care". When we are curious we are asking questions with a spirit of care toward the other. It is a spirit that is not judgmental and thus we are willing and able to ask questions without "seeking" a predetermined outcome or goal. The curious person is a person who is interested in you and your story just for the sake of who you are - not to get anything from it. It is why curious people are interesting to be around because they are caring to all that they meet.

Using a simple Ngram search, we can see the number of uses of the word inquiry is more prevalent than the word curiosity and that both are near all time lows in usage. 

The more we are in the spirit of inquiry and less in the spirit of curiosity the more we may remain in our filter bubbles of confirmation bias. Would asking questions without judgment break us out of our bubble? I wonder...

God Trusts Media

The media is often thought of in terms of newspapers, television, radio, internet, magazines, etc. However, "media" is the plural form of the word "medium." Newspapers, T.V., and radio are just singular examples of media. Media is not limited to these expressions because "media" is just the name we give to all the tools used to communicate to a wide audience. 

Media is neither good nor bad, however much we want to qualify "the media", they are only tools for communication.

When God communicates with creation, God uses media. Or put another way, God uses a number of mediums/tools to communicate with us. God uses Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience to be sure. However, to the Christian, the greatest medium God uses to communicate is Jesus Christ. And when Christ departed this earth, Christ trusted other human beings to be the media of the Gospel. 

We are the media of God's love.

We are the media that God trusts.