There are two types of anger–one that helps you change the world and the other helps you destroy it. But the line between a righteous anger, or holy discontent, is a fine line. If we aren’t careful, instead of lighting good fires for social change, we can unintentionally start wildfires that are out of control (and not in a good way).

My “Righteous” Anger

I used to be pretty angry at those around me for not caring about the social issues I cared about. I thought I had a good, fire-starting anger. And maybe the fires I lit started out as good, but I didn’t know how to handle the fire burning within me. It became a wildfire that lashed-out instead. It was dangerous. I poked and prodded for social change, but without understanding, without love, or without being rooted in joy. My anger soured and was like a corroding poison bitterness.

Ever felt that way? When you want someone to care about something and they are ignorant, arrogant, or indifferent?

Righteous Anger or bitter anger?

When My Fires Turned Good

It wasn’t until I had to work with the people I was really bitter-angry at for a few years through a project to bring impoverished kids food that I finally began to overcome this poison-anger. I realized that these people I was working with might actually care, but they were just too overwhelmed, busy, hurting, or in denial to really move forward in the way I judged they should.

Now “these people” are my people, my hoodlums at Average Advocate.

STAGE ONE: Righteous Anger

For years I’ve been keeping tabs on the process people go through to find their sweet-spot to make a difference in the world, which I have slowly been putting together to help you walk through your own journey. You won’t be surprised to learn that anger is a universal stage that every world-changer goes through.

Righteous Anger Holy Discontent

After being awoken (or as hipsters might say, “woke”) to problems in the world around them, anger always follows. In fact, this fire and flame is lit inside of us is necessary. If we don’t experience a holy discontent, an anger at injustices, or what is “not right” in the world, we won’t ever do anything about it.

 


If we don’t experience a holy discontent, an anger at injustices, or what is “not right” in the world, we won’t ever do anything about it. 


How to Start Good (Not Bad) Fires:

I wish that I had someone help me work through my own anger at this point, and show me how to start fires without condemning, without hating, without letting that bitterness grow within me. Most of us don’t have advocates who’ve gone before us who can show us how to revolutionize the world with love. Yes, I realize that might sound trite, but there is a big difference in the type of fires we burn, good fires, when we love those who are indifferent. If we stop seeing these anti-woke as enemies, but opportunities, even potential allies, our ability to create social change expands.

  • Instead of drawing a line, us vs. them, we can invite naysayers to join the story with us.

 

  • Instead of forcing dialogue, we can share our hopes and our vision.

 

  • Instead of funneling flames of condemnation and self-righteousness in our passion–whether intentionally or not–we can repeatedly show acceptance, grace, and love to snuff out the shame people so willingly pile upon themselves (regardless of whether we are part of that shaming).

 

  • Instead of demanding immediate action, we can offer consistent opportunities for response, remembering social change and the views driving them typically morph over time.

 

  • Instead of talking all the time, listen to understand first, while actually really understand the concerns of the person on the other side of you.

 

  • Instead of standing on a pedestal with our great knowledge, we strategically practice tactics that makes us appear approachable, are welcoming of questions, and humbly remind those around us that we are just on a journey ourselves.

Trust me, I know that “dialoguing” with people who don’t see eye-to-eye with us on social issues can feel like pulling teeth. It is normal to enter into flight, fight, or freeze mode. It takes a lot of practice to become good at advocating with love, something I am still learning! In a nutshell, the key is to not let the problem become bigger than people.


The key is to not let the problem become bigger than people.


What You Will Start Good Fires For? Discovering Your Holy Discontent

For myself, I eventually discovered that the people who “didn’t care” actually were my holy discontent. Yes, I was angry at a lot of social problems, from human trafficking to needless famines and genocide. But my greatest discontent was that people didn’t care let alone respond to global atrocities.

You see, your holy discontent can play one of the greatest roles in discovering your purpose, or calling (also known as a “burning bush”). I wrote this years back to go over the connection between your purpose (or calling, like a burning bush) and your holy discontent. Check it out (you might need to skim down) to help you begin thinking about your own holy discontent.

Burning bush, holy discontent
Many of you begin at Average Advocate as people who don’t like some social issue or another, but you might still be overwhelmed, scared or unsure. That is okay. It might sound super weird, but I like you. I love you. I know you’re not my enemy. We are figuring out how to move forward and change the world, even if just smidgen-by-smidgen and step-by-step, together.

How Starting Good Fires with the LBD.Project Can Help

Last week I had the privilege to briefly speak about the two different types of anger and how through the LBD.Project, our annual project to bring freedom to modern slaves, I’ve become a lot better at being a firestarter without the poison-anger.

One person told me it was weird that I invited people who struggled with anger (beyond a good holy discontent) to do the the LBD.Project with me. Yes, if your holy discontent is that human trafficking shouldn’t be a thing, then it makes sense for you to do the LBD.Project. But even though it might seem disconnected, I still think the invite should stand. Even if ending human trafficking isn’t your passion, but ending childhood sexual abuse, or preventing school shootings is something you care a lot about–I think the LBD.Project will help.

Practice Makes Perfect (Or at Least Better)

It takes practice to advocate, to be a firestarter, without burning down the forest. Maybe intentionally learning how to advocate with love on a subject you aren’t as burning hot about is a good thing.

Also, there is something about sacrificing (in this case, by wearing one black item) to bring attention to an issue that is healthy, as sacrifice usually requires us to develop investment and a giving type of love. Some people call this fasting (you can read about how the LBD.Project changed me as I recognized it was a fast here).

LBD.Project and Human Trafficking

What is Your Next Step To Start Good Fires?

LBD.Project aside, if you want to start good fires for social change, find ways to practice advocating with love, seeing people as potential allies. Choose to practice setting good fires with something you aren’t so triggered by, so you don’t start a wildfire and burn everyone you know, as you get going. Then, take some time to intentionally sacrifice, fast, “let go,” to create a positive investment in the social issue you are hoping to set people alight for change for.
I challenge you to one of these next steps:
  1. Join us (even for the last two weeks) as we do our annual LBD.Project to bring freedom to modern slaves
  2. Comment below with another action step you can take to take to practice acting in love with your holy discontent
  3. If you’ve never thought about your holy discontent before, maybe this is your starting point–think about what sets you on fire in the first place

It isn’t time for you to sit on the sidelines. But it isn’t time for you to burn people with your anger, or let it burn you as it triggers you, either. It is time to become the firestarter who you are meant to be and make the difference you were born to make!

Here’s to learning how to be a firestarter with a good vs. poisonous anger!

Related Posts:

Clarify your own “holy discontent” and “burning bush” here: What To Do With That Blasted Holy Discontent (I Used To Be A Radical)

Hi! Let me introduce myself with my lovely cheesy fake smile. I’m Elisa Johnston and this is where I base online (in real life I’m usually in beautiful San Diego, CA).

I’m here to empower you,  an everyday, super busy, normal person who’s figuring out this adulting thing and who cares about stuff. I help you to be an influencer who makes a difference in the world. 

Stick around Average Advocate and together we will move past the overwhelm of life and the despair of global problems, find your purpose, and discover what your best role is to change the world is. 

I’m no magician. I just encourage and guide as I  write, coach, speak, consult and start-world-changing things to help us move forward.  

In case I sounded unapproachable, let me tell you a little bit about myself. Besides empowering this community, I spend most of my time attempting to live intentionally in my faith (I’m a Jesus person), in my home (the husband + raising my three kids + adult kid), in my relationships, and being creative and adventuring wherever and whenever I can. (Ya, I might live in beautiful San Diego, but I’m always itching to explore.)

Now it is your turn…  What’s your story? 

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