Anger in the Service of Love
Fred Rogers in his great little book The World According to Mister Rogers wrote:
“The values we care about the deepest, and the movements within society that support those values, command our love. When those things that we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged. And what a healthy thing that is! Without it, we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe.”
It is hard to imagine Mister Rogers “angry.” But yes, he was angry and enraged to see the poverty, injustice, and suffering of children around the world, yet he was able to channel this forceful anger into power for change – to create a better world. He was able to channel his rage into love, care and the greater good.
In a similar way, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were able to transform their anger by alchemizing it into a constructive force – using nonviolent resistance to evil and bringing justice and creating positive social change.
If used constructively, anger protects us, which reminds me of the ancient meaning of the word “hero.” “Hero” literally means “defender” or “protector.” The hero protects our values (to Protect Safety, to Restore Integrity, to Build Esteem and to Fulfill Potential). The values that command our love and push us to stand for justice and good.
Yet, using anger as a protector of our values is not an easy task. Aristotle tells us:
“So too it is easy to get angry—anyone can do that—or to give and spend money; but to feel or act toward the right person to the right extent at the right time for the right reason in the right way—that is not easy, and it is not everyone that can do it. Hence to do these things well is a rare, laudable and fine achievement.”
The quote by Aristotle on anger shows how easy to use anger in a wrong way, and how difficult to make use of anger in a good way. But once you master the ability to skillfully balance anger and the way you respond to it, you achieve peace, equanimity, fulfillment and happiness.
Adam Grant in his book Originals, wrote:
“To channel anger productively, instead of venting about the harm that a perpetrator has done, we need to reflect on the victims who have suffered from it. … Focusing on the victim activates what psychologists call empathetic anger—the desire to right wrongs done unto another.
It turns on the go system, but it makes us thoughtful about how to best respect the victim’s dignity. Research demonstrates when we’re ANGRY AT OTHERS, we aim for retaliation or revenge. But when we’re ANGRY FOR OTHRS, we seek out justice and a better system. We don’t just want to punish; we want to help.”
So, next time when you get angry, ask yourself:
How can your anger be constructive?
What value do you need to protect when you are angry?
How can you channel anger in a virtuous way?
What movements within society support the values and command your love?
Are those values endangered? If so, embrace your anger and transform its power to create value (to Protect Safety, to Restore Integrity, to Build Esteem and to Fulfill Potential) — standing up and speaking out for what we believe and taking a noble action to write the wrong and make the word a better place.