A while back I had a pretty bad experience. I found out that some people I cared about deeply had been dishonest with me in ways that really mattered. It was incredibly hurtful.

I quickly ran through several intense emotions. I felt beat up. I felt mistreated. I audibly asked, to no one in particular, why someone I cared about would choose to behave this way.

Then I cried. More than I care to say. And once the tears stopped flowing for sadness, they started flowing for anger.

I was angry over the loss that I recognized was my new reality. I was angry that I had let myself become vulnerable enough to make this pain possible. I was angry that no response to what I was experiencing seemed all that helpful. And I was angry that I felt like I had to just deal with all of this emotion completely on my own, for fear of "gossiping" or making the situation any worse.

The emotions boiled up in me over the next several days. I played the situation out over and over in my mind and wondered what I should have done differently to better protect myself from the betrayal. I saw all of my past interactions in a new light. And this just made me more and more angry.

You could say that I sort of bottled up the emotion. And before too long, I began to feel sick.

A friend noticed that I didn't seem right. He told me he sensed that I was about to fall apart. I told him this was probably true. He sat down with me, said that he was there to listen, and told me to go ahead and vent.

And I couldn't believe the things that came out of my mouth for the next thirty minutes. I don't think I took a breath. It was one long run-on sentence of practically-profanities. My face was red and tears flowed. I vented my frustrations. I shouted unkind things. And I did it all with my voice raised and my fists clenched.

When I finished yelling, we sat there quietly for a few minutes. Hunched over in my chair, I took some deep breaths. Then my friend asked me, "do you feel better?"

I thought for a moment. "No."

He responded, "Of course you don't. Because anger doesn't make you feel better. Only charity can do that."





It was the last thing I wanted to hear in that moment. The last thing I felt like I should hear in that moment was that I was supposed to love and not hate.

But he was right. He was 100 million percent right. And I hated that he was right. Because right then, sitting in that chair, I wanted to be angry.

Not an irrational or unjustified demand. True. But I wanted more than to just be angry.

I wanted my anger to make me feel better.

This shouldn't be a shock. It's human nature to seek internal peace. I think, whether conscious of the quest or not, this is what we are all constantly doing. Every action we take, we do so for the purpose of "feeling better."

We exercise to feel better.

We eat ice cream to feel better.

We work hard at our jobs to feel better.

Maybe we're working hard at our jobs so we can better provide for our families. Maybe we're doing it for the sake of gaining power and prestige. And maybe we're just doing it so we won't get fired and have to live on the streets.

Whatever our cited reason for our actions, we ultimately perform them so that some kind of better feeling can replace an alternative feeling that the action is supposed to avoid.

The problem is, we, the human beings of planet Earth, are notoriously bad at doing the things that are going to make us sustainably feel better.

So we overeat the ice cream, only to feel better in the moment and shame in the aftermath.

Or we ditch our responsibilities to feel the elation of adventure, only to experience the stress of later facing neglected responsibilities.

Or we choose to be angry because it's an easier emotion to let in, even though charity is an easier emotion to actually live with.

It was true, as I thought about it. It was true that my anger and my frustration and my sadness wasn't letting me feel anything other than . . . anger and frustration and sadness.

But as I persisted in dwelling on those emotions, I could expect nothing other than the negative and exhausting feelings that necessarily accompany those emotions.

I recently saw the movie Philomena. [Spoiler alert] A kind and loving elderly woman, the eponymous character of the film, is searching for her son with the help of another man. The film also has a terrible villain. An old nun who completely ruined Philomena's life by giving Philomena's son away without permission when he was a toddler and then actively kept the two from finding one another over the next fifty years.

At the conclusion of the film, this man and Philomena finally go to face this awful, terrible nun. The man screams at her and Philomena pleads at him to stop.

The man turns to Philomena and says something to the effect of, "here's the woman who ruined your life. What do you have to say to her?"

Philomena turns to the nun and says, sincerely, "I want you to know that I forgive you."

The man gasps and says something like, "are you freaking serious?! Just like that!? You forgive her?!"

Philomena responds with deep-seated emotion, "no! Not 'just like that!' That's hard. That's hard for me. But I don't want to hate people. I don't want to be like you."

The man yells back in defense, "I'm angry!"

And Philomena replies, "it must be exhausting."

And it's fascinating and inspiring to watch. Because there stood this elderly woman who had every reason in the world to hate this terrible nun. But in her wisdom, she knew that hating her, rebuking her, seeking revenge, none of these things were going to make her life any better.

The older I get the more I believe that it's true that the only true recipe for inner peace is love. Love for oneself. Love for others. And the biggest threat to our well being does not actually come from what anyone or anything can do to us. It comes from our own disciplined quest to defeat hate and apathy when those emotions are easier to feel.

That doesn't mean we have to be a doormat. That doesn't mean that we have to accept that a person's hurtful behavior is deserved or justified. But it does mean that if we want to succeed at feeling better, we have to do a better job at loving the actor who did something that's not so lovable.

In my own situation, I can say that the stern but sincere nudging from that thoughtful friend has opened me up to healing much more effectively than anything else I was trying. Or wasn't trying.

And while it continues to be a struggle, it's now a struggle I identify. So when I start to feel anger or frustration or when I start to try to convince myself that I should feel apathy or hate, I now get to experience the liberation that comes from reminding myself that I don't have to feel that way.

That I can instead choose to love. I can choose to remind myself that my hate or apathy won't make another's actions less hurtful. And that I can choose to remind myself that no person is perfect. Which in turn makes it easier to love myself when I make similar errors.

And it's wonderful.

Because anger may be easier to feel. But charity is more comfortable to live.

~It Just Gets Stranger