Friday, September 10, 2010

Righteous Indignation Usually Isn't

Indignation requires offense - a "How could he?" response to another's action. "How could he?" implies a lack of understanding of "Why did he?" - a reaction to not understanding the motivation as much as, if not more than, the action itself. Indignation is divisive, since it subsequently adds an element of "She should have known better, so how dare she!" to the mix.

Due to this focus, indignation allows the one who feels it to ignore solutions (including compromise) and focus instead on criticizing the other person. It is seductive, and it is rampant - especially in a forum like a blog where there is no tangible association that can blunt the natural, emotional reaction and provide a satisfying answer to, "How could he?" Worst of all, indignation rarely includes solutions, since the focus is on the object of the outrage rather than proactive solutions.

The only solutions I have discovered are: 1) a recognition and acceptance of the idea that all of us are weak and flawed and do things that can cause "righteous indignation" if others choose to be offended (thus letting us cut others some slack); 2) the humility to be willing to not get indignant - to forget about "How dare she!" and focus instead on understanding "Why did she?"

There certainly are situations where indignation is the right response, but I believe those times constitute only a small fraction of the times when we think we are justified.

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