7 Tips for Turning Anger Into Hope

Photo credit: flickr/ Michael Toy
Practice makes perfect.
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At Mash-Up HQ, we are fueled by hope and optimism and joy. Hope that sharing our stories will build compassion within and without our communities. Optimism that in doing so, we are doing our part to bend that moral arc towards justice. Joy in the raucous beauty that is Mash-Up America.

But some days, guys. Some days anger and frustration and sadness win. And that’s okay — but we won’t let our anger rob us of our hope. So how do we close the door on darkness, and replenish our stores of compassion and hope so we have the energy to fight for a better tomorrow? Our Sikh-American Mash-Up Rupinder Singh shares with us his best strategies, rooted in his Sikh faith.

What are your best tips for keeping anger at bay, and staying hopeful? Tell us!

The Sikh faith teaches us two things: To continually seek connection with the Divine, and to rise above our ego to do so.

Sikhism identifies five explicit “vices” — also referred to as “evils” or “thieves” — that pull us away from the Divine. These vices include lust, attachment, pride, greed and, yes, anger. Sikhism acknowledges that we are human beings with requisite human failings, but luckily, our faith also advises us on how to let go of them, too! Here are 7 tips to keep anger from robbing you of hope.

1. Accept it.

Anger is a part of the human condition

Recognize that anger is a part of the human condition. We know that we have this failing and so it is incumbent upon us to prepare ourselves for it. Sikhs believe that everything happens according to God’s will, or hukam; in other words, what happens is meant to happen. What we do have is control over how we respond to it. So be angry; but remember that we can choose to stay in a rage, or we can transform anger into productive energy.

2. Pause.

Taking a pause to reflect is an explicit and regular part of Sikh scripture, which often invokes a formal instruction to pause, or rahao, to absorb a key theme or lesson. When faced with anger, it is good practice to pause and reflect. When we feel anger, it’s an opportunity to ask ourselves about the source of that anger. What is the hurt we feel underlying it? When we can identify the hurt, we can then identify what steps we can take to address it. It won’t all happen in an instant, but taking a few deep breaths, a walk around the block, or even an evening away from devices and social media can be healing and promote reflection.

3. Fear none, and instill fear in none.

Overcome your own fear and frustration, but while doing so, do not cause others to be afraid. In other words, channel the energy behind our anger and let our anger motivate us to act, but not in ways that will hurt others. It might feel good to lash out in the heat of the moment, but that good feeling never lasts. Compassion does. Avoid seeking revenge and instead focus on finding solutions.

4. Remind  yourself to be optimistic. Repeatedly.

Sikhs remind ourselves to maintain high spirits no matter what we’re facing. This constant state of optimism is a concept known as chardi kala — a state of mind we are taught to hold even in the worst of circumstances. We invoke this phrase at the conclusion of all of our religious services. We maintain optimism not only for ourselves, but also with faith that despite the injustice we see in the world, the Divine will shower blessings on all people.

5. Surround yourself with positive people.

Keep the company of saints.

A common cliché is that we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. The Sikh faith teaches us something very similar: We are taught to keep company of saintly people, the sangat, to benefit from their energy. As such, we should also avoid angry people. It can be so easy to get stuck in a negative echo chamber on social media, or swallowed by Twitter @ battles, or in a passive aggressive tit-for-tat with coworkers. Never read the comments! Instead, seek those who exude peace and a willingness to engage fruitfully in discussion, whether online or in person.

6. Be humble.

Remember that no one is perfect. Including ourselves! If we can get rid of our sense of superiority to others — even when we’re sure we’re right and we’re sure they are wrong — it fundamentally changes the lens through which we see them and we can better accept their full humanity, flaws and all. And our own. Judging our own mistakes, beating ourselves up for them, and feeling helpless aren’t productive. So accept and move on! (See Tip #1.)

7. Take action.

Start small. You can always do something.

Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, taught that while truthfulness is the highest virtue, higher still is truthful living. In other words, be the change. A tactical way to dispel anger and replenish (and spread!) hope is to serve your community selflessly, a concept in Sikhism known as seva. Sikh teachings encourage community service as a responsibility. Serving others proactively without expectation of a reward brings with it inner peace and tranquility, as well as connection. This doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor. Start small. Volunteer at a local community center or library. Clean up a public park. Play an instrument? Give a performance at a local nursing home. Have particularly friendly, people-loving pets? Consider getting them registered as therapy dogs. Remember, you can always do something.

What are your best tips for keeping anger at bay, and staying hopeful? Tell us!

We’re optimists. Join us. 

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Posted by Rupinder Singh
Rupinder Singh serves as a Social Justice Fellow at The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh-American civil rights organization in the United States. He was born in India, raised in Canada, and now lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him at @americanturban.

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