Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.
We often think of anger as a bad thing. We try to avoid angry people if possible. We don’t want to get caught up in their rage and would prefer to maintain our distance and serenity if possible. There are times when anger is appropriate. We will explore Father Bambauer’s third consideration about anger.
We have considered how we jump to conclusions and talk ourselves into becoming upset over minor affronts or misunderstandings. We have also looked at the alternative choice of allowing our anger into awareness, letting it become a topic of rational thought. We can use this process to decide whether there is a good reason to be angry. Having a reason implies that we think about why we are angry rather than exploding in a burst of emotion.
What are some good reasons for being angry? Perhaps the most obvious reason is deliberate physical harm to us or to someone we care about. We can be attacked out of spite or overreaction and in response are rightly angry.
A deliberate attack on our reputation can be just as harmful. Lies about us can have a broader effect than physical violence. Long after the lie, our interactions with others can remain tainted and we can be seen as having even more faults than we actually have.
Another reason for anger is betrayal of trust. We come to depend on our spouses, relatives and friends to be there when we need them. Affairs, gossip and not following through on commitments are all ways of breaking the trust on which we base our relationships. These deliberate transgressions are all legitimate reasons for us to be angry.
You may have noticed that I used the word “deliberate” in describing each of the above examples. Our anger is justified when someone makes the choice to act in a way which is harmful to us. Mistakes and misunderstandings don’t count. The key element is the intention to cause us harm.
The tricky part is to know what is in someone else’s mind and what his or her intentions are. Do you recall a time when your intentions were misunderstood? In the course of ordinary events it is easy enough for us to misunderstand each other’s intentions. The heat of anger only complicates the task.
There are ways to judge whether an affront is deliberate and therefore worthy of our anger. We can ask others what their intentions are. Sometimes they will be honest and tell us what they had in mind. If we have told them how we feel about a certain behavior toward us, and they repeat it, there is a good chance it is on purpose.
- Did you ever think of anger as something positive?
- Seeing someone hurting another is an example of justifiable anger.
- Be sure you understand others’ motivations when you are angry.
- Be sure you understand your own motivations.
- Try talking about it.
Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available from Amazon