Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Virtue of Anger

Res Publica

August 2015

by Tommy Pochedly

The world we live in has become annoyingly apologetic.It seems like every day there is a new headline about some celebrity or politician who lost control of their anger, followed shortly by their insincere apology. We were not always this way. In fact, there was a time when anger,the right kind,was not only tolerated, but appreciated in our society. The truth is that anger is a natural part of us.The classic writers Homer and Plato recognized this.They called it thumos. It is part of Plato’s model of the human soul. Achilles,the greatest of the Greeks, was the greatest embodiment of thumos, though his anger was not entirely effective. Today we have found it popular to go against this truth. We act as if anger is something to be expunged from our person altogether, but this is not possible.

Growing up on a farm I developed a thick skin.There was no coddling around the corn wagon at 5 am, but there were plenty of times when tempers flared. That became normal. Conflict should be a normal part of life. On the farm, I grew to acknowledge the existence of my anger and to rule it. I learned to channel my anger so that is became an asset, an advantage to me. In the past people were used to facing anger. It came from their parents, from their friends,from peers in school, but now parents do not punish, friends fight from behind computer screens, and schools are bully-free. In the absence of anger, our skin has grown as thin and delicate as crepe paper. This is not entirely a bad thing though. The ambitious understand that anger is a tool for moving their interests forward. However, like any tool, you must know how to use anger effective. I believe that I have learned to not only manage my anger, but to activate it to its fullest potential, and I have set down three tenets for achieving effective anger.

The first tenet is that you must know who it is effective to use anger against. Anger is not a fail safe solution.It will not work against every single person the same way. When it comes to anger, people are separated into two general categories: those who will use their anger, and those who will not. The problem for many is identifying the two types. An anti-anger person does not fight when they should. They spend more time worrying about upsetting others than furthering their own interests.They are usually proud of their debilitating empathy and will often brag of how sensitive they are towards others. This makes them easy to spot.

A pro-anger person will always stand up for their interests and anger will not be effective on them. Though they are able to show empathy, sympathy, and mercy, they are not hampered by them. Most importantly they will never shy from necessary conflict. You can trust someone who is willing to fight, even if it is against you for a time. There is a level of respect between people who use anger effectively. There are so few of us left that whenever I encounter someone who is willing to use their anger it is actually a pleasant surprise and we have an automatic foundation of respect for one another.

The second tenet is that when you do decide to use your anger, you must do so to your full potential. Effective anger is not a slowly rising force. Effective anger is a lightning strike, a snake bite – precise, controlled, yet terrible. The suddenness of your anger should surprise and awe an offender. It should make them recoil reflexively. Your anger should make an offender feel like resistance to your interest is utterly hopeless. The only option available is the one you provide. Slow, or half-way anger allows for an offender to think that their interests are worth incurring your anger. This only hardens them to your anger and lessens the chance that it will be effective against them in the future.When I choose to get angry,I tell myself that this is the one time in my entire life that I will ever allow myself to be angry at this person; my one shot. If you take this mindset, in the majority of cases, it really will be the only time you need to be angry at that person.

The final tenet is that once you have dispatched your anger you must be able to bring the offender back into the fold. I think it is important that anger be short-lived, but this is also the hardest part to master. Grudges are tiresome, stressful things, but it is natural to want to hold onto them. It is much better to have it out and move on. I witnessed countless arguments on the farm that nearly came to blows, but all of them only lasted a few minutes or so before work resumed to normal. Smoldering anger consumes time and energy, but creates nothing valuable.

Sometimes a subdued offender is just too repulsive to bring back into the fold though. Your anger has subdued them, but you do not want them to have any involvement in your interests at all. You simply want them removed from your interests completely. When this occurs, I simply ignore their existence and continue to push my interests. An offender like this will often gladly accept the opportunity to be away from the heat of your anger. Also, by ignoring their existence you create a healthy level of fear and tension in them. While you may never spend another thought on them, they are left perpetually wondering if you are still angry with them. This makes them tread lightly around your interests and occupies much more of their energy than you ever expended of yours by being angry. In this way you take advantage of their need to worry over upsetting others. You distract them from their interests. Meanwhile, you are left to pour all your energy into your own interests unimpeded.