Thursday, May 14, 2009

Post No. 117: That Positive Side to Anger Which So Many of You See...


Back in late April, we generated a post entitled, “Is There a Positive Side to Anger?”

Many of you responded that there is a positive side, and perhaps more interestingly, many simply responded that anger is a positive and necessary force, without explicitly addressing whether it should be used judiciously, or whether there are negative ramifications.

One of our readers sent the following story to us a few days ago, and it caused us to re-visit our thoughts on anger. We generally try to avoid posting articles which simply confirm positions which we have previously taken. We do not think that advances anything in the realm of public discourse.

However, this little piece made us re-examine our views on anger, and still arrive at the same conclusion.

“There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he had to hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

“The first day the boy had driven 27 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

“Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all.

“He told his father about it and the Father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

“The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his Son by the hand and led him to the fence.

“He said, 'You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.

“You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. But it won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry; the wound will still be there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.

“Remember that anyone with whom you come into contact is a human and all humans have value.

“Anger has a deleterious effect on us all. Including our kids who observe their parents and others."

This made us think further about anger. This little piece might apply to our children, or perhaps our most intimate friends and family. However, does it also apply to our co-workers, people with whom we come into contact throughout the day, and strangers in general?

What about people more distantly removed, government workers, our politicians and leaders?

What about our institutions, or certain professions, or industries, which are not animate beings, but are composed of them?

Let’s assume that you agree that the use of anger against individuals (of course, those who you claim don’t deserve it) is inappropriate. What is the theoretical or principled position that justifies the use of anger against your broken down car, a business, a profession, a government or a governmental official?

Don’t we have the intelligence as human beings to articulate the substance of our frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc. in words, even well chosen forceful words, without accompanying them with invective and making the points personal?

What say yee you morons, imbeciles, idiots, and vermin?

15 comments:

  1. There was another lesson that boy learned. He learned to drive nails. Probably very well. He also learned to channel his anger to perform a task. Anger, in itself, is just an emotion. It is neither good nor bad, those are values we apply to the results of how the emotion is expressed. If angry is expressed without regard to a goal, it will likely do the damage the father in the story described. Kicking a chair, cussing out a friend (or co-worker), leaning on your horn in a traffic jam, usually accomplish nothing positive and can have seriously bad repercussions. Angry letters to your elected officials might result in bad legislation not being passed. An angry outburst might give others pause before they continue bullying or ridiculing someone.

    And then there's the problem of internalizing anger and the health issues that might cause. Remember the Primal Scream Therapy?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primal_therapy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Imagine three scenarios:

    1. John, your performance today was unacceptable. We will not tolerate it any longer. You will be fired if you do that again. The company can not afford to have its employees.

    2. [Same words, but delivered while screaming and at the top of the speakers' lungs.]

    3. John, you incompetent imbecile. If you think that we're going to put up with that BS, you are more stupid than you look. You pull that stunt again and we're going to boot your butt out of here. We don't need roaches like you infecting our place.

    What I think the author of the piece is trying to say is that Nos. 2 and 3 are unecessary.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous, apply those three scenarios to the following situation:

    Your eldest child (age 4) is about to smack his younger sibling in the head with a Tonka toy truck the youngest one wanted to play with.

    You are clear across the room and cannot reach them in time to grab the truck.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Is there a difference between the weight/amount/ of the justification which one must put forth to support action as opposed to inaction, in connection with conduct which can have detrimental consequences?

    An example: Torture is the action. Refraining from torture the inaction. Does the potential danger or its closeness, or its intensity, affect the choice?

    Another: Internment of people of Japanese-American descent during WWII. Action is the internment, inaction would be no internment.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Douglas typed: You are clear across the room and cannot reach them in time to grab the truck.

    In that situation, you can deliver a very loud, sharply delivered, "Hey!" However, that is not anger. That is a sharp warning to get the kids' attention. This is an example of responding sharply to a "surprise" or potentially dangerous event."

    Is calling the kids "idiots" or "dumbs____" or even adults for that matter, necessary?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good point, Inspector, on the "Hey!" One should never call a child any names other than endearing ones. Actually, no one should be called derogatory names. But it happens. I have even called myself names at times. For instance, while describing a particularly bone-headed mistake I had made, I was asked why I did it. My answer was simple, "Because I'm a f***ing idiot!" Which puts me in Phil Mickelson's camp, I suppose. If names are called, however, it should not be in anger but in fun.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very inspiring story. Since long anger is considered one of the sin. It is good to channel negative energy or frustration or mismatched hurt feelings, but it sure do have very powerful negative impact on the people around and the angry person.

    Being clam inside and outside always draws universal energy and leads to more emotional harmony.

    I like this story, thoughts behind the story and comments related to that.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, like the story about the nails, its a bit Karate Kid- wax on-wax-off. In my work its often the parents that need anger management and they are often at least half responsible for the children's anger. One anger management technique that does seem to work time and time again is for the angry person to get involved in more planned physical activity- running, cycling etc.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hmm... Interesting conversation...

    As far as I'm concerned, anger is a negative emotion - it usually comes up when we can't deal properly with the situation at hand...

    Of course, anger has it's place. If someone smacks my 1-year old in a store, etc., thinking that I do not see them... or they pick up my kid and try to sneak away with her, you bet that anger is appropriate, and my 20+ years of martial arts training will smoke their ass...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks to all who shared comments responsive to this article. We are trying a new method of dealing with comments. Instead of responding to each, individual comment, we hope that you will engage others in analyzing the issues, and we'll just pose additional questions along the line.

    We welcome all points of views, and value them. Thanks for visiting.

    ReplyDelete
  11. thank you!! for the comment i`m of chile and
    i dont know very well write inglish, sorry but thank you my name is ignacio, good bye and post plis!!! friend

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hmm... Interesting conversation...

    As far as I'm concerned, anger is a negative emotion - it usually comes up when we can't deal properly with the situation at hand...

    Of course, anger has it's place. If someone smacks my 1-year old in a store, etc., thinking that I do not see them... or they pick up my kid and try to sneak away with her, you bet that anger is appropriate, and my 20+ years of martial arts training will smoke their ass...

    ReplyDelete

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