Can Anger Be Positive?
This is a short paper I wrote answering how anger can be a positive tool, rather than one that takes the place of reason.
Anger: Negative or Positive?
It is believed by many philosophers that anger removes a person’s ability to think logically and reasonably. Many examples of war, death, hurtful words, and other unpleasant occurrences are attributed to anger. Aristotle seemed to believe that anger could be useful in certain situations, though the correct situations were hard to find. Anger itself is not the issue when it comes to reason.
By definition, anger is only an emotion. How one expresses that emotion is where many falter and make choices out of a distorted perception of a situation. Though many religions, including Catholicism, list anger as one of the “deadly sins,” the Christian bible makes reference to Jesus Christ not only becoming angry, but expressing that emotion as well. As a Christian, we are raised to believe that Jesus Christ never sinned. Therefore, we can conclude that feeling angry is not a sin, and if expressed in the correct way, a positive way, anger can be a useful emotion.
One example of anger being used positively is during the Civil Rights movements. A minority group was being treated unfairly, and it angered them. Instead of beginning another war like the Civil War, African Americans participated in peaceful protests; sit-ins, and other non-violent ways of showing that they did not accept the way they were being treated. After awhile, laws were changed, schools were integrated, and many other changes were put into place as a result of anger toward a social injustice being expressed in reasonable way. Long before the Civil Rights movement, Aristotle spoke of how anger born from a perceived social injustice could be useful in preventing further injustices.
On another thought, anger is also useful in personal situations. In cases where a relationship has become abusive, a woman may still be blinded by what she feels is love. Many cases are reported in which a woman makes excuses for her abuser, saying he did not mean to hurt her, he is sorry, and he will not do it again. When it happens again, the victim may place blame on herself, believing she provoked the aggression. Anger can give a person the strength to follow through with tough decisions, like ending an abusive relationship. By becoming angry, the woman overcomes the blindness love can cause, and gains the strength to get out and start over on her own. In this situation, the woman thinks more clearly with her anger than without it.
Anger is also a natural step in dealing with grief. When a loved one passes away, we go through many stages of thinking and emotion along the road to coping with and moving forward from the traumatic loss. If attending psychological therapy for grief, or grief counseling, many will advise that anger is a natural, healthy emotion to feel when coping. Talking through the emotion rather than lashing out at other friends or family members is a positive way of dealing with the emotion. After talking through the angry feelings, the grieving person can move on to the next emotion or step in recovery, rather than being stuck because they feel anger is a sin or an illogical emotion.
Though there are many cases for anger as a negative emotion with negative consequences, it is apparent that there are times when anger can be useful in critical thinking. Positive outcomes have occurred through anger, and mental and spiritual healing has been possible by allowing anger to come and go. Anger is not the enemy of reason, but it can be difficult to handle if not assessed and expressed properly. Violence and aggression are born of anger, but these are not the only paths anger can take.