We all know how it feels to have someone angry with us. If that person is close to us, it can turn our world upside down. At that point we usually apply any one of a number of strategies. We might go on the offensive, or the defensive, or withdraw and avoid confrontation, or appease the person with compromises, etc.
These various strategies all have one thing in common: They stem from us perceiving the other’s anger as a powerful, destructive force, capable of traveling directly inside and wounding us. What if it isn’t? What if it has no real power over us whatsoever?
The key to realizing that anger cannot hurt us, according to A Course in Miracles, is this idea: “Guiltlessness is invulnerability” (T-14.III.7). If you understand that in truth you are innocent, you will also realize that you are invulnerable, that even though you can be hurt physically, you cannot be hurt emotionally.
To get a feel for this idea, imagine for a moment that you felt absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever, totally clean, as pure as one of the saints. Take a moment and really try to imagine it. Now picture someone being angry with you. How would you react? Since you know you don’t deserve this anger, it would probably just bounce off you. Can you see yourself responding only with puzzlement and concern? Amazingly, this implies that people’s anger cuts so deep only because, somewhere inside, we believe that it is our just deserts. Even if we are innocent in this situation, we still believe that, in the larger picture, we deserve to “get it.” And that is why we let this person’s anger penetrate so deeply.
If this is true, then the key to staying peaceful in the face of someone’s anger is real faith in our own innocence. But can we really be innocent in the face of all that we have done? At this point A Course in Miracles offers another idea: our innocence has nothing to do with our behavior. It is an eternal state of purity, placed in us by God, at the core of who we are. No matter what we do, that core remains forever pure. And because of that core, all of our misdeeds have been the mistakes of an innocent person, nothing more. They deserve compassion, not guilt.
The next time someone is angry with you, then, you might want to reflect on these thoughts: “I don’t deserve this anger. I have made many mistakes, probably in this very situation, but I don’t have the power to lose the innocence God placed in me. Therefore, I deserve only love, which is exactly what God is feeling towards me right now. And so, instead of taking in this anger, I can remain at peace. This leaves me free to be concerned about the other person, and to reach out in love to do whatever is needed to alleviate his or her suffering.”
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]