I woke angry today. I had to go to London which meant a commuter train. It had rained and the roof on my old SLK had leaked and the car seat was wet. I didn’t have a tissue or towel, so I got a wet bum. Then there was the family sitting in my normal seat with small kids jumping up and down, with loads of luggage. My God, was I angry and for the whole day and I took it all out on my colleagues. Maybe I was too harsh in that staff review.
It was going to be a romantic night. You dressed to the nines and we decided to take a taxi, so we could have a glass of wine. For the last month we have been looking forward to going to this restaurant. It was going to be a special date night but over there, at a table in the corner, a couple are arguing, shouting, and annoying us. They have been building up to it and are now in full flow. The night is ruined, and we ended up shouting at each other. Who do you blame and who is going to bear the brunt of your anger? More than likely the person you were being with romantic with.
Anger in a relationship may lead to domestic abuse. You don’t have to hit someone or throw pots and pans. There are other ways to be angry. A fake smile at their pathetic jokes, don’t talk, cold shoulder, manipulation, evade and be evasive are normal passive anger strategies.
Wrath, anger, call it what you will, we are all prone to it. We have been slighted and hurt and we need to show our emotion.
If we had to make a penance for all the deadly sins, anger or wrath is the one that would have us genuflecting the most. It is the sin that we commit most often despite always being warned of its failings.
This piece could go one of any number of ways now.
I could talk about how I mange my anger by channelling it into vengeance adopting the much-quoted adage that I shouldn’t ‘get mad but instead get even’. There is nothing as satisfying as revenge, ‘served cold’. I can’t help it.
I could try and give a short moral lecture on the failings of anger and how a deep breath is always better. We talk a lot about containing anger and as a society we don’t like it and always encourage conciliation above litigation, or as Winston Churchill said in 1954 it’s ‘better to jaw-jaw than to war-war’.
Alternatively, I could drift into philosophy and dig out a load of quotes such as Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher and inspiration behind Taoism who said that the best fighter is never angry. And Sun Tzu, he of the Art of War, said that the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. While that other great philosopher, my Mum, always said count slowly to ten.
Personal anger against those passengers on the train or the shouters in the restaurant should be contained and thumping them or someone else who comes into my path while the ire is high, however satisfying, is not a great strategy.
But I am not an apologist for anger. This is not going to be a piece about self-restraint because however embarrassing, upsetting for others, I think we should all get angry. I think we should all be angry, all the time.
I remember reading that Malcolm X said: usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.
There is a great deal in our society and world that we need to change and those are the things that should make us angry. We must direct our anger towards problems and not people. We should focus our energy on answers and not excuses.
Do you remember where you were on 13th July 1985? Well unless you were one of 72,000 at Wembley Stadium or a 100,000 John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, the chances are you were one of 1.9 billion watching the Live Aid concert on television.
Bob Geldof and Midge Ure organised Live Aid to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. They got angry at the images of starving and malnutrition of children all over Africa and they did something about it.
In this hashtag world there is no excuse not to be angry. Nothing is being hidden. Black Lives Matter, the number of children orphaned in the war in the east of Ukraine, the civilians being killed in the Syrian war and the continuing starvation in Africa. There are thousands of reasons to be angry. There are millions of children still dying unnecessarily who are the reason you should be angry.
Compassion is not enough. There are times when we need to angry and do something.
Anger is neither good nor bad. As American author Jim Butcher said: ‘What you do with anger is what matters. It’s like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice.
Earlier I quoted Winston Churchill from 1954 encouraging us all to jaw-jaw rather than war-war. Thankfully, in 1939 he ignored his own advice. He made a stand and stood for change. He got angry, very angry.