I’ve been angry before
Roaring, stupid angry.
Punching holes in walls and kicking things angry.
I’ve never been proud of those moments. They are the kind of moments you look back at and retreat to some dark corner of the mind where you won’t have to see that memory. Shame is certainly there, but there is also embarrassment, which is kind of the same but different.
Who the hell punches holes in walls? Who yells like that? This isn’t Braveheart. It’s the early 21st century and I’m a suburban white guy.
Yelling is a bit silly.
It’s a raw, stupid kind of anger. Full of sound and fury, as it were.
And then I’ve been mad
That cold, simmering, too damn smart, kind of mad.
That bitterly enduring righteous kind of anger.
The first kind might be a part of you.
The second changes you
It justifies you. Validates you.
I’ve justified myself into doing things I’m not proud. I always thought I enjoyed it in the moment. We relish poor tidings on our enemies, especially when we are the envoy.
That joy sours in time. When the lens you turn on yourself is more clear.
I think most, if not all, people will lose their temper at some point. Certainly this can be dangerous. Crimes of passion are well named. Still, the second sort of anger seems more lethal. A good person may do bad things on occasion. But cold, passionate anger can turn a good person into something else.
Everyone knows the feeling of anger, but recognizing our capacity for the self-delusion that comes with it is so much more difficult.
You make yourself the victim, you justify the eye for an eye. We disguise blind vengeance as “lessons” as if anyone learns a damn thing from being victimized. Abuse and victimization begins in the mind with “well if they didn’t…”
Savagery does not teach.
And you alone are responsible for your actions.
We are not animals.
Hemingway wrote: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.”
Anger has a lot in common with war. It’s war with eachother. It’s war with yourself. The things we do in the name of anger and war alike are almost always terrible. Even on those sad occasions when it is necessary.
It fine to get angry. Being pissed off is a fantastic motivator. It helps us defend ourselves. It protects us from harm, giving us some emotional distance. When focused and directed by a good head, it can achieve amazing things.
Decide what is worth your anger. Don’t waste passion on petty people and the inconsequential stresses of life. Save anger and passion for the big picture. Pick a target that you can do something about. Maybe it’s poverty, Maybe it’s the structure of your workplace. Maybe its government. Maybe it’s merely your situation in life.
Save your anger for the things that matter, but temper it always.