Political Edition

The Circles of Empathy: Political Edition is intended for the liberal, moderate and conservative-minded alike. Each feels anger, outrage, and frustration at perceived injustices, maltreatment, and prolonged conflicts. No one has cornered the market on these experiences and emotional responses; suffering is a commonality we all share.  The Circles of Empathy: Political Edition exists to help participants address their feelings of anger, outrage, or frustration in the context of public morality,  human suffering, justice, and government.

“A more robust public engagement with our moral disagreements could provide a stronger, not a weaker, basis for mutual respect. Rather than avoid the moral and religious convictions that our fellow citizens bring to public life, we should attend to them more directly—sometimes by challenging and contesting them, sometimes by listening to and learning from them. There is no guarantee that public deliberation about hard moral questions will lead in any given situation to agreement—or even to appreciation for the moral and religious views of others. It’s always possible that learning more about a moral or religious doctrine will lead us to like it less. But we cannot know until we try. A politics of moral engagement is not only a more inspiring ideal than a politics of avoidance. It is also a more promising basis for a just society.”
— Michael Sandel



Circles of Empathy are small, six week discussion groups, that can be formed in-person or  online; created to help participants sort through their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs while also cultivating empathy for one another. Circles of Empathy constitute a practice, or a way of approaching social conflicts through self-reflection, open-ended conversation, and empathetic support. This practice can also help  increase skills of bearing frustrations, holding tension, and embracing paradox and ambiguity.

The Circles practice is not used to change anyone’s mind or convince anyone of anything. It is not intended to make all participants agree with one another. Empathy does not mean agreeing, it means attempting to understand other on a deep and sincere level.  In this Political Outrage Edition of the Circles practice, there is an underlying assumption that in addition to acknowledging and respecting our feelings of anger, outrage, and frustration, we might also hope to progress in understanding our emotions, and transmute them into further thought and action for the benefit of self and community.

Therefore, the circle questions (below) engage participants in a pattern. The first group of questions invite participants to simply investigate and acknowledge what they feel and think. Later questions then move on to discuss the values each aspires to and the kind of person each wishes to be. The idea is that we benefit by first examining what we are experiencing; re-visting who we are and exploring the context of what we are dealing with, and then we can determine how we each want to respond to the context moving forward. As we listen to each other along the way, we simultaneously have the opportunity to practice greater empathy.


You can form a Circle with as few as three or as many as eight people. You just need to commit to one another to meet six times to discuss each of the fundamental questions. Each time you meet, just follow the simple Process and adhere to the Agreements explained on this website. No special training is required.

You could meet over a weekend or once a week for six weeks. Each time you meet, a participant volunteers to lead the discussion by following the Process and Agreements.

That’s it.

If you have any questions about how to form or participate in a Circle, contact us here. You can also find Circles of Empathy on Facebook and connect with others in your area who may want to form a Circle.

Follow this simple process each time you meet as a Circle.

  1. Review the Agreements .
  2. Share brief updates or introductions.
  3. Hold three minutes of silent mindfulness meditation (gently observing your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations).
  4. Silently set an intention for your circle experience today (e.g. what you hope to experience) while trusting that it’s possible to leave the circle with whatever it was you needed and that the seeds planted here can keep growing in the days ahead.
  5. Briefly introduce today’s question.
  6. Discuss the metaphor for today’s circle.
  7. Discuss the question and follow-up questions for today’s circle.
  8. Close with final thoughts, feedback, and choose a volunteer to lead the next discussion.


Question 1. What is the most consistent source of my feelings of anger, outrage, or frustration in the context of public morality,  justice, human suffering and government?  

  • For example: Do I experience anger, outrage, or frustration when I see unfair attacks on my values and ideals? Or do I experience anger, outrage, or frustration when I see harm done to others? Etc.
  • How do I describe my anger, outrage, and frustration? What does it look, feel, or taste like?
  • How do I define my anger, outrage, and frustration?
  • Where do I feel these emotions in my body?
  • What metaphors come to mind that help describe or explain what I am feeling?
  • How do they manifest themselves in my daily life?
  • What role do my personal expectations play in how I experience anger and frustration in this context?
  • Exercise: write down an inventory of the causes of your anger, outrage, and frustration.

NOTE: The purpose of this question is to excavate the sources of your thoughts and emotions only; to help you map the landscape of what you are thinking and feeling within. Please avoid trying to fix or solve your feelings during this Circle.


“A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give – yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
— William Stafford


Read each quote as a group, one at a time, and respond with whatever thoughts or feelings they elicit:

“Anger is the deepest form of care, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger points toward the purest form of compassion, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.”
― David Whyte

“Violence is what we get when we do not know what else to do with our suffering.”
― Parker J. Palmer

“For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
— Milan Kundera from “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.”
― George Bernard Shaw

“When it is genuine, when it is born of the need to speak, no one can stop the human voice. When denied a mouth, it speaks with the hands or the eyes, or the pores, or anything at all. Because every single one of us has something to say to the others, something that deserves to be celebrated or forgiven by others.”
― Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
― Zora Neale Hurston

“Justice… requires us to align ourselves in certain ways in the dynamics of historical conflicts, choosing loyalties and policies that make for greater equality, rather than widening the differences between individuals and groups; and choosing greater liberty, rather than policies that limit persons to preassigned social roles and possibilities. These ‘regulative principles’ of liberty and equality provide the principal norms of justice.”
— Reinhold Niebuhr

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
– Audre Lorde

“Like the prophet Jonas, whom God ordered to go to Nineveh, I found myself with an almost uncontrollable desire to go in the opposite direction. God pointed one way and all my “ideals” pointed in the other. It was when Jonas was traveling as fast as he could away from Nineveh, toward Tharsis, that he was thrown overboard, and swallowed by a whale who took him where God wanted him to go…But I feel that my own life is especially sealed with this great sign… because like Jonas himself I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox.”
― Thomas Merton

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
― Desmond Tutu

“I think our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted. It means engaging with the world from a place of vulnerability and worthiness.”
― Brené Brown

“Ultimately evil is done not so much by evil people, but by good people who do not know themselves and who do not probe deeply.”
― Reinhold Niebuhr

Question 2. How do I typically respond to my feelings of anger, outrage, or frustration? Why do I respond that way?

  • For example: Do I respond with patience and forbearance or by voicing outrage and actively countering injustice? Do I respond with fierce compassion or by attempt to destroy the other? Do I respond with embarrassment or feel self-conscious if I feel those emotions?
  • How and why do I make choices between those responses?
  • How have my core values, identity, and roles I play in life, shaped how I respond?
  • How do I trust my outrage and honor my anger (if at all)?
  • What do I when I have allowed my anger to make me act out of alignment with my values?


“A Brief For The Defense”

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
— Jack Gilbert


Read each quote as a group, one at a time, and respond with whatever thoughts or feelings they elicit:

“Action without reflection can easily become barren and even bitter…”
— Jim Wallis

“The Christian faith believes that within and beyond the tragedies and the contradictions of history, we have laid hold upon a Loving Heart, the proof of whose love, on the one hand, is the impartiality toward all of his children and, secondly, a mercy which transcends good and evil.”
— Reinhold Niebuhr

“One of the things that has to be faced is the process of waiting to change the system, how much we have got to do to find out who we are, where we have come from and where we are going.”
— Ella Baker

“The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for Life.”
— Gary Zucav

“Without the ultra rational hopes and passions of religion no society will ever have the courage to conquer despair and attempt the impossible; for the vision of a just society is an impossible one, which can be approximated only by those who do not regard it as impossible.”
— Reinhold Niebuhr

“Sometimes fierce compassion is required to protect ourselves, to protect others, and to protect our relationships. With real understanding and compassion and a tender heart, we can be both gentle and fierce. We can develop good boundaries and the wisdom to enable us to be firm and kind at the same time in our personal lives, our work, and in community relationships.”
— Cheri Maples

“To live virtuously as individuals and societies, we must understand how our minds are built. We must find ways to overcome our natural self-righteousness. We must respect and even learn from those whose morality differs from our own.”
― Jonathan Haidt

“Justice finally comes with the recognition of ourselves in others.”
― Rev. Clemente Pinckney

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr

“I want to live in a world full of explorers and generous souls, rather than people who have voluntarily become prisoners of their own fortresses. I want to live in a world full of people who look into each other’s faces along the path of life and ask, ‘Who are you, my friend, and how can we serve each other?’”
— Elizabeth Gilbert

“We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out, either way making things worse for ourselves and others. Or we can practice patience: wait, experience the anger and investigate its nature… Patience has a lot to do with getting smart at that point and just waiting: not speaking or doing anything. On the other hand, it also means being completely and totally honest with yourself about the fact that you’re furious. You’re not suppressing anything—patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. If you wait and don’t feed your discursive thought, you can be honest about the fact that you’re angry. But at the same time you can continue to let go of the internal dialogue. In that dialogue you are blaming and criticizing, and then probably feeling guilty and beating yourself up for doing that. It’s torturous, because you feel bad about being so angry at the same time that you really are extremely angry, and you can’t drop it. It’s painful to experience such awful confusion. Still, you just wait and remain patient with your confusion and the pain that comes with it… The resolution that human beings seek comes from a tremendous misunderstanding. We think we can resolve everything! When we human beings feel powerful energy, we tend to be extremely uncomfortable until things are resolved in some kind of secure and comforting way.”
— Pema Chodron

What do you do with the mad that you feel?
— Mister Rogers

“As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”
— Congresswoman Barbara Lee

“Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we’re not entirely certain about who’s right and who’s wrong? Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are? It is powerful to practice this way, because we’ll find ourselves continually rushing around to try to feel secure again—to make ourselves or them either right or wrong. But true communication can happen only in that open space.”
— Pema Chodron

“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.”
— Richard Rohr

“When we hold on to our opinions with aggression, no matter how valid our cause, we are simply adding more aggression, leading to more violence and pain. Right speech does not mean watering the seeds of peace within others and ourselves at the expense of injustice or exploitation. It is important to examine who will suffer if we do not speak up. If we see injustice, we should avoid complicity, on the one hand, or demonizing and making others the enemy, on the other.”
— Cheri Maples

“As a government commission, we could not reconcile the nation, we couldn’t offer forgiveness, we couldn’t provide God’s grace. All we could do was to try and create a space within which people listened to one another, damn it, listen to one another. I think that was our theme. “Are you hearing what your enemies are saying?” and to the extent that a greater depth of understanding, of being aware of what caused people to do things, their motives, their aspirations, what drove people to do these dreadful things. As that understanding began to emerge, so the morality began to flow in. If you like, the theology was revisited and people began to realize that amidst this political structure, there was a need to deal with deep, deep, human, theological, spiritual, ethical issues.”
— Charles Villa-Vicencio (referring to his work on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

Question 3. How do I define power and its moral use?

  • Whom do I see as having power within political  conflicts? Why?
  • How do I see and assess my own power to shape outcomes?
  • How do I use whatever power I do possess?
  • What gifts do I possess that could shape outcomes?
  • How am I faithful to my those gifts? Why?
  • How am faithful to the needs I see around me – within my reach? Why?
  • How am I faithful to those points at which my gifts intersect those needs in a life-giving way? Why?
  • When and why do I feel powerless? What leads to my sense of powerlessness?
  • How do I feel about the power of ideas or the power of perspective or possibility or the power of emotional intelligence and empathy?
  • How do I respond to relational power (exercised through relationships) versus coercive power (exercised by force)?
  • Take the “Trait Hope Scale” to better understand the levels of agency and opportunity you generally feel in life.


The Cure At Troy (excerpt)

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.
The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.

The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.
History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.
Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.

If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
― Seamus Heaney


Read each quote as a group, one at a time, and respond with whatever thoughts or feelings they elicit:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile— Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.”
— Doctrines and Covenants 121: 41-45

“All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
— John Dalberg-Acton

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies… Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired… Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
— Mother Teresa

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

“To alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.”
— Paulo Freire

“How do you realize your complete potential as a human being when you’re constantly dealing with something that seems almost undefeatable?”
— Arnold Rampersad

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”
— W. E. B. Du Bois

“In the agonizing atoning process, Jesus let His will be “swallowed up in the will of the Father.” As sovereigns, choosing to yield to the Highest Sovereign is our highest act of choice. It is the only surrender which is also a victory!”
— Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges and the prime conceits of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.”
— David Whyte

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.”
— 2 Nephi 2:26

“What horror we manifest when we cloak ourselves in abstract morality.”
— Courtney Martin

King Henry – Methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the king’s company; his cause being just.

Michael Williams – That’s more than we know.

Soldier – Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the king’s subjects: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.

Michael Williams – If the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make.

King Henry – Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.
— William Shakespeare, The Life of King Henry V, act 4, scene 1, lines 127–29, 131–37, 183–85.

“Speak Truth to Power.”
— Bayard Rustin

Question 4. How do I respond to the ambiguity inherent in seemingly unresolvable social conflicts?

  • What meaning or value, if any, do I find in sitting with tension and frustration?
  • When/why do I need resolution to conflict and when/why can I let it remain unresolved?
  • How do I acknowledge and respond to the complexity inherent to political differences ?
  • What does successful change-making look like for me? Must things change immediately for me to feel fulfilled and to appease my anger?
  • When and why do I allow my frustration to turn into cynicism?
  • If/when I choose to sit in the unresolved tension, how do I do that in healthy and sustainable ways?


“Dream Deferred”

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
— Langston Hughes


“Keeping Quiet”

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
— Pablo Neruda


Read each quote as a group, one at a time, and respond with whatever thoughts or feelings they elicit:

“We each have the opportunity to live our lives consciously in spite of all the soporific influences, to act even when we know how complex the prospect of doing so truly is. Our charge is not to “save the world,” after all; it is to live in it, flawed and fierce, loving and humble.”
― Courtney Martin

“There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.”
― Thomas Merton

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
― T.S. Eliot

“The insight at the heart of nonviolence is that we live in a tragic gap — a gap between the way things are and the way we know they might be. It is a gap that never has been and never will be closed. If we want to live nonviolent lives, we must learn to stand in the tragic gap, faithfully holding the tension between reality and possibility. By the tragic gap I mean the gap between the hard realities around us and what we know is possible — not because we wish it were so, but because we’ve seen it with our own eyes.”
— Parker J. Palmer

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
— Reinhold Niebuhr

“As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.”
― Pema Chödrön

“Within us is the courage to hold life’s tensions consciously, faithfully, and well, until they break us open. The broken-open heart is a source of power as well as compassion—the power to bring down whatever diminishes us and raise up whatever serves us well. We can access and deploy that power by putting time, skill, and energy into the education and mobilization of the powers of the heart.”
― Parker J. Palmer

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”
― Reinhold Niebuhr

Question 5. How do I respond to the suggestions of redeeming or transforming my outrage?

  • What role does empathy and forgiveness play in the way I deal with my anger, outrage, and frustration?
  • How do I respond to the idea of “redemptive anger” (anger that gives way to generativity/imagination/creation/direction)?
  • How do I respond to the idea of holding tension in “life giving ways?”
  • How do I respond to the idea that injustices and outrages can make me a either a “better or bitter” person?
  • How do I respond to the idea that injustice and outrage can transform me into a “wounded healer?”



Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
— Naomi Shihab Nye


Read each quote as a group, one at a time, and respond with whatever thoughts or feelings they elicit:

“… love is not antithetical to being outraged. Let’s be very clear about that. And love is not antithetical to anger. There are two kinds of anger. There’s redemptive anger, and there’s non-redemptive anger. And so redemptive anger is the anger that moves you to transformation and human up-building. Non-redemptive anger is the anger that white supremacy roots itself in. So we have to make a distinction.”
— Ruby Sales

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
— Brené Brown

“Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior, to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life.”
— Parker Palmer

“Human beings live in the tension between nature and spirit, between knowledge of our mortality and our intimations of transcendent meaning. Our highest hope and calling is to live responsibly in this tension.”
— Reinhold Niebuhr

“Making use of suffering in order to build peace and happiness is like growing lotus flowers. You cannot grow lotus flowers on marble. You have to grow them on the mud. Without mud, you cannot have a lotus flower. Without suffering, you have no ways of learning how to be understanding and compassionate. That’s why my definition of the kingdom of God is not a place where where there is no suffering. I would not like to go to a place where there is no suffering. I would not like to send my children to a place where there is no suffering because, in such a place, they have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. And the kingdom of God is a place where there is understanding and compassion, and, therefore, suffering should exist.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”
― Desmond Tutu

Question 6. What does self care and support in the face of ongoing struggle, political conflict and deep frustration ideally look like for me?

  • What do I see as my responsibility to others as I practice this self-care?
  • What do I see as others’ responsibility to me as I practice this self-care?
  • What do I need to do right now to tend the “root of inner wisdom” that can make my work fruitful?
  • What practices do I cultivate in helping me be still and tap into my peaceful and calm core and sense of personal integrity?
  • How do I engage my communities in helping me to address the complexity inherent to political and social conflict?
  • How do I overestimate and underestimate myself and my abilities to make positive changes in my life and communities?
  • Given my limitations and fallibilities, how am I showing up fully, in the best way I know how, for my communities ? Why?


“The Bridge”

There are times in life
when we are called to be bridges,
not a great monument spanning a distance
and carrying loads of heavy traffic
but a simple bridge
to help one person from here to there
over some difficulty
such as pain, fear, grief, loneliness,
a bridge which opens the way
for ongoing journey.

When I become a bridge for another,
I bring upon myself a blessing, for I escape
from the small prison of self
and exist for a wider world,
breaking out to be a larger being
who can enter another’s pain
and rejoice in another’s triumph.

I know of only one greater blessing
in this life, and that is
to allow someone else
to be a bridge for me.
— Joy Cowley


Mercy Now”

My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over it won’t be long, he won’t be around
I love my father, he could use some mercy now

My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom, he’s shackled to his fear and his doubt
The pain that he lives in it’s almost more than living will allow
I love my brother, he could use some mercy now

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now

Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown
I love life and life itself could use some mercy now
— Mary Gauthier


Read each quote as a group, one at a time, and respond with whatever thoughts or feelings they elicit:

“Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
― Thomas Merton

“If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
― Hillel the Elder

“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“I worry that I keep a tap on my rage and it comes out in visible ways with the people who love me most. There must be a better way. So who supports the supporters? What if your supporters are growing weary of your need for support? How do I know at what point I am asking too much of them?”
― Dr. Roni Jo Draper

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.
― Edward Abbey

“If you tarnish your perceptions by holding on to suffering that isn’t really there, you create even greater misunderstanding. One-sided perceptions like these create our world of suffering. We are like an artist who is frightened by his own drawing of a ghost. Our creations become real to us and even haunt us.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

“We stand where we will stand, on little plots of ground, where we are maybe “called” to stand (though who knows what that means?) — in our congregations, classrooms, offices, factories, in fields of lettuces and apricots, in hospitals, in prisons (on both sides, at various times, of the gates), in streets, in community groups. And it is sacred ground if we would honor it, if we would bring to it a blessing of sacrifice and risk… Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be alright.” But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.”
— Victoria Safford

“What is the size of your soul? What is your soul’s ability to grow and expand, to stretch when life throws more contradictions your way? By “size” I mean the stature of [your] soul, the range and depth of [your] love, [your] capacity for relationships. I mean the volume of life you can take into your being and still maintain your integrity and individuality, the intensity and variety of outlook you can entertain in the unity of your being without feeling defensive or insecure. I mean the strength of your spirit to encourage others to become freer in the development of their diversity and uniqueness. I mean the power to sustain more complex and enriching tensions. I mean the magnanimity of concern to provide conditions that enable others to increase in stature.”
— Bernard Loomer

Question 7: What do I feel is the best way to live my life going forward in how I experience and respond to anger, outrage, and frustration?