Anger: Is It Good?

Picture of a small boy looking angry.

(Image: Courtesy of Pixabay)

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”
~ Maya Angelou

“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

“Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.”
~ Mohandas Gandhi

“The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.”
~ Bede Jarrett

Clearly, my topic is anger. Today, as is our practice, my wife and I ate breakfast watching a morning TV news show, and the broadcast was riddled with horrific stories featuring outrageous behavior. Not good for the digestive process, you say? Perhaps, but if you are not totally desensitized by the daily bombardment of social violence, physical and otherwise, the reports will serve to raise your blood pressure. What would cause that, you ask? Good old fashioned anger is my response.

Last week, in this forum, I posted a reflection, “What Price, Freedom?” where I quoted Barak Obama and challenged myself to work towards making humanity great again. Ever since I have thought deeply about what that would look like. I became more frustrated each day when I failed to come up with a satisfying plan. The only commonality within me on each of those intervening days was a feeling. It was anger.

This anger, what shall I do with it? I decided to elicit assistance from those I consider wiser than myself. The four quotes listed above are not the only statements I found about anger, but they are fairly representative. Interestingly enough some depict this emotion as a good thing, while others suggest otherwise.

The more I read, the more I came to believe that the word anger is almost as abused in its usage as the word love. Have you ever looked up the word indignation? The dictionary I consulted began, “anger or annoyance…” and I shook my head. This was after I read a psychological treatise about anger that declared it was the excessive affect of annoyance, indignation, etc. My point is that we seem to toss these words around carelessly as though they are interchangeable. I’m not sure they are.

I am sure that I have a problem with anger. I don’t always control it successfully. So, I am intimately acquainted with the concept and the experience. I believe that there are different degrees of anger and I tend to use the word annoyance for the mildest level and the word rage for the excessive quantity.

I must now address the question raised in the title, is anger a good thing? Maya Angelou and Bede Jarrett see some good in it, while Benjamin Franklin and Mohandas Gandhi may well argue otherwise. I would answer with a qualified ‘yes’. Or rather, it can be a good thing. If my anger is out of control and causes me to lash out violently by word or deed, I think that is not beneficial. I cannot imagine an out of control response accomplishing any good for myself or others.

However, if I feel no anger about what is wrong with humanity, how can I be motivated to act? I cannot “make humanity great again” if I do not act. The feeling of anger tells me that present circumstances are unacceptable, that behaviors by important persons in positions of authority which we witness daily are intolerable. That feeling, if controlled, is what I call righteous indignation. It is good because it protects my heart from becoming desensitized and it spurs me to remedial action.

Ultimately, we come down to this question, “what can I do about it?” The only thing I can do is to use the talents God gave me and the knowledge and skills I have acquired to devise appropriate actions. Each of us needs to assess our assets and decide. Anger will move me, motivate me to do something positive to make humanity great again. In this sense, anger is my ally and the fuel of my arsenal. It is my friend, and it is good.

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

32 thoughts on “Anger: Is It Good?”

  1. I agree, John ~ anger can motivate. But is it the best place from which to act? When I witness an injustice, I immediately feel angry. I take great effort to remind myself that this is raw emotion, a potentially dangerous place from which to take action. If I pause long enough to remember to breathe, compassion for those suffering the injustice arises and my heart opens. Then any action I take will serve to help right the wrong. As you say, an out-of-control response will accomplish nothing good. I think it best to first witness what we’re feeling, and then act only from the heart. This is a terrific article, filled with much food for thought ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tina, for your kind words and encouragement. There’s a lot of wisdom evident in your reflection on the role anger should and should not play. I know I’ve been guilty many times of reacting out of anger instead of from the more positive place of love. Your words resonated with me today and I’ll strive to live by them in the face of anger.

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  2. Interesting post and extremely helpful. I’m trying so hard to be mindful of my anger but it’s as if I have no control over it with my mouth. I feel like I have a demon inside of me that is lashing out and there’s no filter. This happens at work mostly. I have an appointment with a “shrink” if you will in a few weeks in hopes of getting some help. I have reason to be angry but I can’t lash out like I do…sigh….thank you for this 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Lennon. Anger is one of my demons too, but I don’t have any good reason to have a short fuse. Each day, week, month, and year I get better at keeping it on a leash, but it still gets away from me from time to time. Good luck with your struggle!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks John, it just seem lately with my suppliers, co-workers, employees common sense and urgency are two factors lacking. I get so frustrated with people and when I do, I lose it, so badly that I’m dropping my favorite F word and calling people names and belittling them. I work for a family owned business. There’s no HR department and the owner/boss backs me up but I can’t continue to act this way. I’m too old to be a brat and to behave this way. Hopefully I can get a pill or something to help defuse the situation. 🙂

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        1. I was tempted to be flip and respond with “Yay, drugs!” But I’ll behave. Have you noticed that when you’re angry and disgusted, the F-Bomb is the only word that really satisfies? Why is that? Sometimes humour can serve to defuse me. If I can control my outbursts long enough to substitute an F-Bomb with another F-word, it often sounds so ridiculous that I have to laugh… as in “Oh, FRUITCAKE!” or “I don’t give a FART!”. Now I’m sitting here laughing at myself, Lennon. Thanks for the share. Hugs!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, anger! It can motivate us but always totally set us off the path we were so determined to stay on… As you say, there are two ways to look at it. I don’t often watch the news as it not only can cause me to get angry about the state of the world but also sad.. And if I add in a feeling of powerlessness then I’m just likely to crawl into bed.. Instead I look to empowering blogs and conversations to fill me with hope and give me the will to continue to try to better the world, even if it is only in some small way.. You have so many good points here, John!

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    1. Thanks, Christy, I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this topic. I agree, too often the news is just depressing, but the odd time you get a great story about a cab driver in Halifax who spotted a man assaulting a woman on a sidewalk, stopped his cab and went over to chase the slug away. He put the lady in his cab, followed the slug to a gas station and called the police. They arrested and charged the slug. Very nicely done!

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  4. Anger is a good thing as long as you project it to what exactly made you angry. It helps cleanse us. The Bible says righteous anger is a good thing. I’m not sure what that means, but anger certainly has its place in life. I am angry at human traffickers, furious, sickened, and disgusted.

    Unfortunately, none of us can change “mankind”. What we can do is brighten our corner of the world. Volunteer, be a big brother, help an orphan organization, a local human trafficking organization … you get the point.

    I am thankful I found your blog. I like the way you use your critical thinking skills.

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    1. Nancy, I’m grateful for your kind words, and I’m very happy you enjoy my blog. I agree the challenge in life is to keep the anger in check and aim it in the right direction. No easy task when it burns white hot! Thanks for the follow!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Rae. I love the discussions that emanate from these posts because I receive points of view from readers that often enhance my understanding of these issues. I’m glad you’re liking them too!

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  5. I’m changing the subject a bit here, but must say I appreciate the short blurb of your book (A Personal Journey into the Heart of Teaching), which refers to”lessons taught and lessons learned.” That was my experience of teaching – a very rich two-way street. I was never angry with students, but once during my first year teaching when a head of department wanted me to cancel a planned test so he could do an inspection, I flared up immediately – don’t come between me and my students! He never again scheduled an inspection. Kind of odd thinking about this fifty-five years later 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Welcome, Diane! Your comments about “Journey” are most welcome. I took on a VP once who came to my door upset that a few of my students were wearing non-uniform sweaters. The heat shut down in my classroom that day and it was frigid. I allowed the kids to go to their lockers for sweaters – and a few returned with the contraband. I allowed it under the circumstances and the VP was not happy with me. As we stood in the doorway debating it I asked her how many kids she had… none. I told her when she has one, she’ll understand where I’m coming from. She walked away in a huff. The following September I got the boot outside to a portable. Moral of the story? Wait until your final year to take on the brass.

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  6. Anger fueled by my passion to view a different world to the one that currently exists, is, I believe, an essential part of who and what I am.
    Suppressing that anger, and forcing it down causes a bitter back-flow of bile.
    I firmly believe that we all need anger to a certain degree. It is when that anger is permitted to catapult us into hatred and revenge that the danger of us then becoming inhumane in an already inhumane world exists.
    Those of us old enough to recall the movie “Network” when Peter Finch stated publicly on air “I’m as mad as hell; and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” witnessed the cleverly portrayed resultant ‘chain-reaction’ of ordinary folks raising their windows and shouting it out to a desensitized world, it was one of the most memorable scenes of any ‘hollywood’ depiction of frustrated and ignored anger that I have ever seen.
    We don’t live in a Hollywood movie, (or we shouldn’t) yet at times these movies cause us to question our own motives for action or the lack thereof. In our current world where we are interconnected with each other so tightly through the advances in technology. I believe strongly that those voices can be a force for change and a force for good, providing that those voices are tempered with reason and the firm understanding that anger expressed freely brings with it its own responsibility.
    Therein lay the rub. The history of the world reflects that we have never yet managed to enter the ‘Age of Reason.’

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Suzanne, for your eloquent and thoughtful contribution. Sometimes, I think we give Hollywood a bum rap. Like any piece of historical writing, a movie is the product of the interpretations of the script writers, the producers, the director, and the actors themselves. A film is as much a work of art as a painting. Therefore, I agree that sometimes a film can teach us significant lessons. Our constitutions, criminal and civil codes and scientific processes all bear witness that humanity has entered the ‘Age of Reason’ to a degree. We depart from that plane of existence when we act on our baser instincts. And that, is worth being angry about.

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  7. Lately, I’ve been angry with myself for not keeping a lid on my anger towards what’s happening in the world. Your post has helped me to sort out said anger. I now realize that being numb & non reactive is not an option. My anger is a natural & beneficial response to the shit storm of life:)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your feelings about this topic, Teresa. There are a lot of things happening in the world to fuel our anger, but we need to keep a balanced perspective. There are a lot of wonderful things happening every day as well. I think that anger aimed at ourselves is a good way to direct our attention to our own attitudes and choices about action.

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  8. This is a thoughtful response, John. There is so little of life that we can impact meaningfully, but that little bit is the key, isn’t it? Anger is one thing, hate quite another. Sometimes we humans cannot distinguish between the two.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Gwen. I agree, most of us are not among the movers and shakers of the world, but we do have the power to influence others around us. It is all too easy to slip from anger into full-blown hatred, so these wonderful emotions of ours need to be controlled. Emotions are not bad, but how we act upon them could be. Thanks for helping the discussion along today!

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