Angry enough to murder…

It’s almost impossible to be articulate about the most recent school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. It truly is incomprehensible.

Yesterday, instead of a dharma talk at Sweetwater Zen Center where I practice, our Abbot and head teacher Anne Seisen Saunders, Roshi let us in an opportunity to share how the school shooting had impacted us individually.  I talked about my fear for teenage boys who experience whatever it is that results in such incidents.  About half way through the conversation, Herb Ein Eko Deer, Sensei, spoke about how unwilling he was in that moment to find within himself the anger that alleged shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza must have been feeling to do what he did.

I was immediately reminded of how our book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (link to the free version at makes it clear just how dangerous anger can be. On page 66, in Step Six, it says in part, “No one wants to be angry enough to murder…”

Step Six is, of course, about finding the willingness to let go of our shortcomings. It seems most of us are reluctant, at least at first, to move to the acceptance that allows true letting go.

The chapter goes on to assure us that most of us have never experienced the emotions at that “rock-bottom levels.” But it doesn’t let us completely off the hook. Instead, in the next paragraph it suggests that we not congratulate ourselves but, instead ask ourselves “when we face up to the less violent aspects of these very same defects, then where do we stand?”

As I read this, there isn’t much difference between my anger and the anger that leads to murder; it’s a matter of degree. The anger I have is the same anger that you feel and that presumably Adam Lanza felt.  Which, if, as I believe, we’re all connected, would have to be true.

Like Eko, I haven’t yet been willing to go to the place within me that would murder children, but I strongly suspect it’s there.

Step Six goes on to talk about the possibility of enjoying self-righteous anger and gossip tinged with anger. I certainly go there from time-to-time. And the more aware I become of them, the more willing to let them go I become, the less I’m driven by them.

Eko and I talked a bit after service and I asked him what would happen if everyone got in touch with their anger and let it go. I think he said that would lead to healing for everyone.

Somehow that feels right to me, although I have no idea how that would happen. I do know that change is constant and that I’m going to look into my own, deeper anger as best I can. As I become willing to see and let go of all my anger it certainly can’t hurt and it might even help.

Finally, another practitioner there, Nathan Woods shared this photo of Pakistani children lighting candles and sharing our pain as they asked us to share theirs. Perhaps it has begun.

Love, blessings, and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered


kathryn schiff December 19, 2012 at 4:00 am

this is great Anne. thank you!

annew December 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Thanks Katherine.

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