Some Days Love Looks Like Anger


Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

Yesterday evening, I arrived at the rally in a downtown plaza in Oakland, California and said hello to a few friends. Oakland is a marvelous place, filled with art and music, a lake with Canada geese and night herons, and boats that skull across the waters. Oakland is also a place where young people are killed on what sometimes feels like a daily basis.

I greeted the parents of a young man who was killed a year ago last May. We spoke briefly, and I showed them that my sign had a picture of Trayvon Martin on one side, and their son, Alan Blueford, on the other. Adam, Alan’s dad, said, “That’s the picture that always gets to me.” I asked when it was taken. “Thanksgiving,” his mom replied. “It was cold that day” explaining the skully on Alan’s head. “It was the Thanksgiving before he was shot. He was seventeen”

The man who shot him is back in uniform. Back on the job. What do I say to his parents? I don’t know. We simply stand together until it is time for Jeralynn, Alan's mother, to speak words as bright as fireworks from the stage.

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

All week, I’ve been in a back and forth with a magazine editor about what constitutes racism, what constitutes White Supremacy, what constitutes acceptable behavior on the part of one of her writers. I’ve gotten nowhere with this conversation, though I’ve tried. I’ve talked with friends about it. We are trying to figure out what to do to further confront the racism and unexamined privilege in our overlapping spiritual communities. 

I remarked on Twitter: “Combating racism is tiring. I don't know how people of color do it daily, year after year. Love and respect.”

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

A friend passed along a beautiful poem performed by a man who had to figure out how to teach his four year old nephew what it means to be black in America, without teaching him to constantly be afraid. I posted it on my Facebook page. This morning I awakened to find someone had left a hateful, racist comment on the thread. I took a screen shot, reported the person, and blocked him. I posted that hate does not deserve a platform.

It’s too much, some days. Young people are dying in Oakland and Chicago. Young people are also dying across the globe, victims of xenophobia and greed. Their parents grieve. Yet some of us feel we have the right to spew hatred upon one another. Some of us feel we have the right to remain steeped in ignorance. Some of us feel we have a right.

We can do these things. And we do. But do we have a right? Who gives us those rights? Sometimes I think these things that we call rights are just another form of privilege. If you can get away with spewing hate without getting shot down in the streets, you have privilege. Privilege is the ability to not have to stare oppression in the face every day.

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

Outside a bar last week, I talked with a local poet. “I’ve been beaten multiple times by the police. I’ve been shot by the police. And on not one of those days did I leave my home thinking ‘That’s going to happen today.’” 

A friend of mine works with youth who come to school every day, trying to get along like any other high school students. But their friends have been shot. Killed. Their friends have gone hungry. They don’t have shoes for the basketball tournament. There is one art class at their school. There is no computer lab. You read that right. There is no computer lab. Yet all they have to do is “work a little harder.” All they have to do is “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” All they have to do is “get their lazy asses off of welfare.” Because, you know, reverse racism and reverse discrimination are real. And the playing field is level in the United States of America.

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

I've felt angry this week like I haven't felt in years, me, the cheerleader of love and change and beauty. Don’t get me wrong; I’m going to keep working for justice. Don’t get me wrong: I’m going to keep opening my heart to love. Don't get me wrong; I will still let music fill me, and the sight of trees awaken my heart. I just know that sometimes love has to be poured through the slow burning fire of an angry heart. Not a heart filled with hatred – for that is poison, that gets stuck – but a heart that sometimes loves so much, with such passion, that anger is the only right response. 

Then my heart will break again. I’ll fill with hope. I’ll hold some people close to me, and fiercely. The fire in me will bank to warming coals.

But today? This day? A day in this week marked by the killing of Emmet Till, the waters rising to engulf the poor parishes of New Orleans, the lifting of the voice of Dr. King, asking us for justice, freedom, and the fulfillment of a great dream?

This day, this week, love looks and feels a whole a lot like anger. 

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still love. 

37 Responses to “Some Days Love Looks Like Anger”

  1. Jim Dickinson

    Yes. Yes, it does. Like blinding, red, raw outrage.

  2. Beth Weaver-Kreider

    Oh, how I needed this today of all days. Today when I rage at Syria, at a nation that sends drones that kill other people’s children, at The Corporate Reality, at Monsanto and Nestle, at that monster of a man who would dare to hurt the child of my friend, at the US Secretary of Ag suggesting that we rural folks are important to the US because more of us send our children into the military machine, at racism and homophobia that just hang on. Thank you from the bottom of my raging, furious heart.

  3. Leanne Pemburn

    All of the emotions that open us, that charge us up, that feed us and support us, begin to look the same.

    • Thorn

      Yes. I especially find that the longer I am centered in Love, the more that can become the case.

  4. Nicole Youngman

    Thanks for remembering NOLA in the midst of all this. We love all of you who have helped.

    • Thorn

      Love to you all. May your city continue to heal. May we all keep trying to make a more just and beautiful world together.

  5. Cynthia

    Hm. I woke up crying this morning, thinking about how angry I am that anyone–ANYONE–would even once deny that racism is so powerful, so evil, that it can kill beautiful children and never be recognized. Miguel Masso was in the middle of OGP last week, being a “police officer” and his fellows had to form a ring around him to move him off the plaza and away when he was recognized. At least I know people who know racism is real; most of them are wounded by it every day of their lives. Hm. Yes, love feels like anger–rage, actually.

    • Thorn

      “At least I know people who know racism is real; most of them are wounded by it every day of their lives.” Yes. Too many people have no idea – they don’t have those wounds. I wish there was an easier way to learn than through immediate pain. We have to work hard to get perspective that doesn’t come from within our immediate reality. We *can* do it though.

      Thank you for all you do.

  6. Jo Jenson

    Thank you for this. Anger gets a bad rap in some circles. Anger itself isn’t good or bad, it just is. Anger tells is things about ourselves, generally that one of our boundaries or principles has been crossed. How we respond to our anger is what makes it “good” or “bad”. We can lash out in reaction to our anger injuring others or we can act from our center, with love, and use the enormous energy anger provides to create change.

    • Thorn

      I agree, Jo. The more I work from a place of love, the more I have found that emotions like anger can find their proper, useful place. Sometimes anger can galvanize us.

  7. GaianIsis

    Love to you! The righteous place of anger burns the way for love to flow. This post is timely and poignant. Thank you!!

  8. Ute

    This was the right message at the right time for me as well. Blessings on you in your synchronicity.

  9. venusian

    gratitude- hail and welcome raw, elemental and unapologetic anger.

  10. Jane

    Thanks, Thorn.
    Sometimes you gotta howl at the moon
    Full heart, full voice to the truth

  11. Idalia

    I needed to see that. I needed to know I’m not the only one, that I’m not failing, that there are reasons. I needed to see it from you, one of the most honest people I know of. Authenticity.

    • Thorn

      Sometimes anger is just what we need. We just have to make certain we aren’t letting it drift toward poison. Let it run through us, let it galvanize us, let it keep us in the flow.

  12. Shadoedance

    What do we do when it paralyses us? When watching the news affected us so much that we begin to loose our faith in humanity. When there seems to be so much pain, so much suffering that we become overwhelmed with helplessness. When we feel guilt for our own privilige in the face of so much destruction. When we are overwhelmed knowing that we, the fortunate ones, are a huge part of the problem. We are lucky. we get to keep our children safe. How do we reconcile that? I’m a social worker. I do what i can. I work with drug users, People with HIV, people with mental illness. I work for my trade union. I work from a place of love and a deep intergrated respect for my fellow human. I need to believe in my species to do my Work. But how can i reconcile with injustice? How do i reinstore my faith in humanity?

  13. T. Thorn Coyle: Know Thyself

    […] last week’s posts on love – first the one for Dr. King, but especially the one on Love and Anger – I was so happy when this message came through, high above the earth, on my way to Rotterdam. I […]

  14. Colleen

    Could the anger you speak of be that righteous fury that can fuel work for justice, peace and making the world a better place? That’s the term I use to describe that feeling when it hits me.

  15. Storm Faerywolf

    Thank you so much for this. Anger can be a healthy thing if it inspires right action. Let this angry love be the fuel for the fires of freedom.

  16. ~M.

    Blessings to stay the course to you! You are a light in a world that needs it.

  17. Herleena

    I watched something a friend posted of a. Black man tell others to get over feeling the results of racism and quit blaming others for what goes on in the community and society that it is the lack of education and personal responsibility. I stopped the video at his advice how a black person should approach the police. I became angry. I must accept some people don’t get it, but it doesn’t mean I can’t tell them they aren’t getting it and hoping they understand.

    • Thorn

      Yeah. “Respectability politics” talk happens frequently. Trouble is, it doesn’t work.

      This systemic stuff can be hard to wrap our brains around – personal responsibility is certainly part of every equation, but when up against big, interlocking systems, we simply can’t rely on it. It is like telling a woman what to do or not do in order to avoid rape. Yes, a woman can be alert etc, but ultimately, rape culture and the men who rape are the problem, not the woman’s behavior.

      We all have to keep trying, as best we can. Love to you.

  18. Jacki

    Thank you for saying this. It is a challenge and a commitment to stay in the place that is so uncomfortable and so difficult. My white privilege makes it so if I chose I could close my eyes and ignore what is happening. Go back to what feels “safe and comfortable.” My hope and prayer for myself is to keep building my capacity to stay present to these feelings, to this unbearable compassion.

  19. Tig

    I come back to this one a lot. I think, the idea “sometimes love looks like anger” applies to so much more. I know that is intended and it is comforting.


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