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Chaplaincy to The Manchester Universities. The RNCM & The University Of Law.

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“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

Richard Rohr

Tearing Down The Walls



Tearing Down The Walls


There’s fire in the belly of the earth this week. Did you feel it? A rumbling fire that brought change and swelled emotion around the world. Anger, hope, fear and a million other feelings besides…. 


Walls went up, walls are coming down, and walls are getting closer. 


For some of us, walls went up overnight with no warning. I don’t know how that felt, but I can imagine. Down those walls came… in acts that demanded that humanity be seen and voices heard. For others, a wall which has split nations and kept families divided and incarcerated was (symbolically at least) brought down this week. And all around this country the walls of home drew in again as lockdown #2 began and the outside world ground to a halt.


There may be other walls in your life. Unseen walls. Walls that surround and inhibit you from crossing to where you want to be as much as any bricks-and-mortar wall. I know of relationships that build walls. Brick-by-brick, slowly over months or years, a person comes to feel trapped. The fortress can be as impenetrable as Rapunzel’s tower, whilst the walls remain invisible. Or, perhaps, in your life walls have been built by something else – an injustice, or an ongoing discrimination. Whether they are ‘glass ceilings’, the brick walls of powerful institutions or the ‘greasy poles’ of politics and power, perhaps you encounter obstacles in all kinds of places. 


Is it any wonder, with all these walls, that the human spirit bursts through and bubbles over… Like water held against a dam, the quietened force of the human voice will eventually find a place to push through – first as a trickle, then as a building tide. Perhaps you’ve seen pictures of the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989? The significance of tearing down the dividing wall was immense, but I can’t help but think there’s also something totemic about destroying a wall. When facing a wall in opposition it’s people vs. bricks… anything, or anyone, that cages us in and takes away our dignity and freedom stirs something deep, compelling us to act. 


This is a hopeful and somewhat utopian picture, I know. Perhaps the mood of the week has seeped into my bones. I know that in reality not all of us are able, willing or ready to bring down the walls. But this week I’m writing to those of us who do. For those of us who feel and hold the anger in our hearts, and for whom it burns and compels us to act. What then…? What then to do when faced with the walls and feeling the anger…?


For women in particular, feeling angry isn’t easy. For fear of being ‘tone policed’ or told to “calm down”, we can end up focussed more on how we say what needs to be said, rather than on what needs to be said. This takes away our power. It’s OK to be angry at injustice, it’s OK to be angry at bullies and those who would keep us quiet. Here, then, are my top tips on anger and how to tear down walls:


  • Say to yourself, “it’s OK to feel angry, I am allowed to have this feeling.” Welcome your anger as a torch and a teacher.
  • Now breathe, letting your anger burn deep within you. You don’t need to react.
  • Next, look at your anger. Let it talk to you and teach you. The white light of its heat will illuminate what you care most about and why.
  • Now is your chance to move from reactive to responsive. With the shape of your anger articulated (instead of a stirred-up mass of feelings), you can choose to respond. Creatively, in solidarity with others, and lovingly to enact the change you want to see. 


Lovingly…? Does love play a part here? Returning to the words of Jon O’Donoghue, my final encouragement would be to draw a ‘circle of light, love and protection’ around yourself as you move forwards. 


And so, when facing injustice… defend yourself with love. When facing a bully… guard yourself with love. When acting to tear down walls that divide… surround yourself with love. And when facing hate and destruction, remember that the strongest, most unifying force is always love. For many of us, there will always be barriers to overcome and seemingly insurmountable road-blocks to face. Armed with a creative anger and surrounded by love, are you ready to tear down the walls?


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