I have a terrible addiction to outrage.
When I am feeling wounded, hopeless, or I’ve screwed up, I take a big hit of moral outrage and, boy, does it ever feel good. Like heroin good. The sweet release of that snarky tweet, that ALL CAPS facebook post, that righteously outraged instagram story…oh it’s good baby, so good. To paraphrase the dearly departed Rick James: moral superiority is a helluva drug.
As far as self-medicating goes, this addiction is widely socially acceptable. There are a lot of pats on the back in our echo chambers. The algorithms that govern our social media have figured out that moral outrage gets the most clicks (seriously…it might even be a bigger deal than cat pictures…go figure) and thus pushes those statuses/tweets/videos to the top of the pile.
So you screw up your courage and blast out some performative righteousness and line up to get your a gold star in “wokeness.” (or on the other end of the spectrum, your platinum plaque for “owning the libs”)
Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely no shortage of things to be rightfully outraged about. I am in NO WAY claiming that righteous anger doesn’t have a place. It sure does. The world is a messed up place sometimes.
I have had a few occasions over the past few years that I’ve chased the proverbial dragon and it’s landed me in some, well, awkward situations. When the high goes wrong, it goes really wrong. Like any addiction, you eventually get to a place where you throw people and things you care about on the fire just to keep the euphoria going. I’ve ruptured relationships, alienated people and cost myself opportunities. That’s real talk people, I wish it weren’t but that’s the deal.
After one particularly bad blowout last summer, I could no longer hide from myself. Listen, we all do things to hide from ourselves. It’s a little less than awesome to figure out that you’re pretty good at it. But eventually, those disguises will cease to be effective. It is tough to face the pain that we numb through our various vices (#alliterationwinning…but I digress). Seriously.
When I step back from the outrage, I’m left to grapple with some things that are tough to handle. Loneliness, feeling stuck, the aftereffects of staying too long in a toxic job, the challenges of parenting a kiddo with a disability. None of those things are easy. But here’s the thing. The internal work of walking in these realities, walking THROUGH them instead of continuing to avoid them, that’s the thing that sets you free. That’s the thing that heals, strengthens, and renews the spirit.
These days, I try (and thankfully succeed more often than not) to abide by the following rule: I don’t engage online unless I’ve spent some time in contemplative practice (prayer, mindfulness meditation etc.). It’s a lot harder to chase the outrage high when I’ve spent time doing internal work.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate y’all