It amazes me how many books, groups, websites, and other information sources there are that promote “positive” ideals… love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, humility. Many of these sources would have us shun other aspects of ourselves that are considered “bad”, “evil”, or “negative.” For many, anger, pride, and other “negative” feelings are in direct opposition to what they believe it means to be a spiritual person. The claim is often put out that we cannot be in touch with the divine if we indulge in “negative” behaviors. If we allow anger and hate in our lives, then by default, we must close the door on the spiritual and divine.
However, this viewpoint leaves a lot to be desired. It makes no room for middle ground, for spiritual development or for emotional complexity. Emotion is neither good nor bad on its own; it is how we act on these emotions that counts. If I am angry because of a grave injustice, that anger can be a motivating force that allows me to correct the situation and make the world better. If I practice forgiveness with someone who has repeatedly hurt me, I may open myself for even more abuse from this person.
For me, learning to accept all that I feel and finding a balance between extremes is a key aspect of spiritual development. There are lessons to be learned in all that we experience. Rather than repress or deny so-called negative emotions, it would benefit us all to learn to use them in a non-destructive way and to allow them to be expressed without automatic condemnation. Of course, that would require that we stop seeing everything in terms of black and white and acknowledge that the world is, in fact, made up of shades of grey. I’m not sure we’re capable of this as a species… it is far easier to pigeonhole thoughts and emotions into extremes than to allow for a full spectrum of possibilities.
“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.” – Euripides