Moral Outrage: Is there anything more satisfying? More captivating…even delicious?
“Can you believe what he said?”
“Did you see what he wrote?”
“Can you believe what she is wearing?”
It’s endless, isn’t it? Even before the advent of social media- if any of us can recall back that far, that is, men and women of all races, creeds, and ages have and continue to feel delight in expressing outrage. And when it’s moral outrage, well, the gloves come off, don’t they?
I recall vividly knocking, more accurately pounding, on the door of my good friend Almita, before she and Reuben moved to southern California to be close to their son and daughters. I was drenched in it, moral outrage, it was pouring out of every orifice.
“I just had to talk with you!”
She listened patiently to my rant. There was no other word for the torrent of my words.
When certain I was done, Almita was quiet for a long minute. Then she spoke.
“Lin, I have found that when such strong emotions are evoked by the actions of another, it is often something in ourselves that we are reacting to. Something we dislike intensely because we are embarrassed or perhaps ashamed of the feeling when it appears unbidden.”
Staring at my wise friend, I was flabbergasted, dumbfounded. Because rather than joining me in my righteous vitriol, she looked through it to the other side where truth lies.
I despise precipitous judgement, made with an incomplete knowledge of facts, context, injustice. When I do it, I feel shame at my unfairness to others-at my rush to judgement. Because, of course, it’s the me I cannot stand that stares back at me. It has nothing at all to do with them.
We find if willing to look and then listen, that those most justifiable of feeling moral outrage…. don’t. Consider Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s comments about his horrendous treatment in the Gulag by Russian officials.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Carl Jung termed that part of each of us the ‘shadow.’ For Jung coming to grips with the darkness in ourselves was the most critical work of life.
Although I share the skeptical view of my lead characters toward psychiatry, Jung’s last book, Modern Man is Search for a Soul was instrumental in my return to God and faith. Just as it was for Dr. Lindsey McCall. Keep in mind as you read this next few paragraphs that Carl Jung considered himself an atheist throughout much of his life.
Here’s what Lindsey had to say about the book:
It had taken Lindsey just two days to read Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul. She had enjoyed the book so much that she had read it twice, the second time slowly, enjoying the thoughts of the man who had begun his career as a protégé of Freud, but who had diverged from the Freudian school of psychiatry after only six years with his brilliant but tortured mentor.
Lindsey reflected on the many surprises she had found in the book: Jung’s nomenclature, for example. He was emphatic about the essential aspect of the confessional stage of the psychoanalytic process for the therapist and patient to establish a therapeutic relationship.
Confession: the word had seemed to proclaim itself to her as she had read and then reread sections of his book. The power of the word itself and of Jung’s conviction that the physician psychiatrist could not be of assistance to anyone past the age of thirty-five—for Jung, the onset of middle age—without the aid of some religious belief on the part of the patient, reverberated in her heart. She wondered if Jung’s theories were perceived as radical when he wrote what would be the last book of his life? Radical indeed seemed an appropriate description in the contemporary age of psychiatry, one that predominantly relies on medication—the chemical cure.
“Talk to me about confession, Father,” she had requested at the time.
They had been seated at a small table in a charming wine bar on the outskirts of Beaumont. Father John Tobin had turned to look at Lindsey. “You liked Jung’s book, I take it.” His gaze had been penetrating and unsurprised.
“I’d not been exposed to anything like that in medical school. I found it—“ she had searched for the right word and looked at the priest, “radical is the right word, I think, Father. From the Latin, root.”
That was a first! Quoting from my own book!
I hope the segues from moral outrage to Jung’s concept of shadow to Lindsey weren’t too choppy!
As always, thank you for reading.