There’s no limit to the things we can become addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, gambling, food, video games—you name it! Addictions often start slowly before we realize what is happening and then once they take hold, can be most difficult to overcome.
Lately, with all of the outrageous things that are going on in this world, the injustices, the inversion of normal, the seeming triumph of evil over good (emphasis on “seeming”), I’ve noted another addiction that seems to be taking hold for many—an addiction to outrage.
It’s not bad enough when we hear of something outrageously immoral or tyrannical, but we often can find ourselves looking for more on social media, blogs and podcasts. Conversations with friends and family may veer toward the outrage du jour and before we know it, that’s all we are focused on. And as much as it’s unpleasant and dragging us down, we almost can’t help ourselves and we keep looking for more, like some bizarre treasure hunt.
Now let me say this, I’m using the term addiction very loosely here. I, in no way, want to minimize the many dreadful addictions people and families may be struggling with. But in many ways the word can apply quite well here so, for lack of a better term, let’s go with it.
So, why is this happening and why is it becoming more prevalent?
I think for many of us who grew up in, what seemed like, more wholesome times, the blatant and in-your-face nature of the abuses and distortions we are seeing are simply unbelievable. Could things have really gone this far off the rails, and this quickly? A woman’s “right to choose” has now become a brazen call for infanticide. What others do in the privacy of their bedrooms has now become a “right” with which we all must assent or we will pay the consequences. Priests proclaiming the truths we held dear for 2,000 years are being sanctioned and canceled by their own bishops. Our seeking more and more evidence of the absurdity of the world in which we find ourselves may be rooted in a “pinch me, is this real” reaction.
With good reason we find ourselves not only sad, but angry and feeling helpless as the snowball of insanity gains speed down the hill, taking our culture with it. So, we keep looking. We keep talking about it. We keep sharing stories and videos. Who else sees the emperor is naked? We need to find them for our own sanity, so strong are the public accolades for his fine clothing.
Of course, you may be taking the high road. Your values and concerns may be legitimate and downright laudable. But the evil one is happy to keep reminding you of those good values if he can use them to undo you with constant anger and outrage. Don’t fall into his trap.
So how can we overcome this “outrage addiction” before it becomes more deeply rooted? How can we avoid or overcome it if we find ourselves pulled into its vortex?
Here are a few suggestions:
Step One: Identify It
Does this syndrome seem to identify your experience? Do you find yourself angry and outraged a lot of the time? What are the subjects of the majority of your conversations? It’s great, and necessary to have like-minded friends, but you run the risk of only talking about the bad stuff and losing site of the good. Take the opportunity when you are with like-minded friends to get some diversions—play cards, form a book club, do some fun projects together, or get out and enjoy nature. You’re all on the same page and can all likely use the break. If you have trouble changing the subject, or your friends do, then all the more reason to recognize the trap you may be falling into.
Step Two: Quantify It
How many things are infuriating you? Are they just the big things in the world, or do you find yourself outraged by the slow cashier, the guy who didn’t signal before changing lanes, your kids who don’t seem to appreciate all you do for them. Make a list. Sometimes getting things on paper helps give us a better perspective. Take a look at the list and see if any themes emerge. Is it one topic that outrages you or nearly everything?
Step Three: Qualify It
Once you’ve spewed it all out on paper, you can evaluate your list. Are the things on it actually outrageous, or has outrage just become your characteristic reaction? Some things are annoying in life, not really outrageous, but it’s easy to generalize everything and become outraged at petty annoyances. Life will always have irritating people, cars that break down, appliances that malfunction and other vexations. Try to offer those up in union with the cross and don’t allow yourself to be undone. Save your outrage for those evils that truly deserve it.
Step Four: Limit It
Limit your exposure to that which provokes your outrage. It may mean cutting back on social media, skipping your favorite podcaster or not clicking on the links of those things that are shared with you. Know your limitations emotionally and act accordingly.
Step Five: Choose Your Battles
Anger is a God given emotion meant to move us to action against that which is harmful or evil. We need to use it well. There is good reason the outrages and sacrileges you see are bringing out rage in you. Take time to discern what causes are heaviest on your heart. Commit the other ones to God’s mercy and justice. You’re only one person and believing it’s your job to save the world is delusional. That job belongs to Jesus.
Step Six: Take Action
As I said, you can’t fight every battle so choose one or two where you can have an impact. It may mean volunteering somewhere, spearheading a letter writing campaign, donating to specific organizations, focusing your prayer intentions or all of the above. Action goes a long way to quell the sense of outrage and puts you back in control. No, of course, you’re not in control of the results, but you are in control of you, and when you feel like you’re doing your part, the sense of outrage will often abate.
Remember, God is ultimately in control. You are here in the world, at this time for a purpose. Let your feelings guide you into being part of the solution and don’t let the devil use them against you. His days are numbered. God’s days are eternal.
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