Morality Series: Wrath (Anger)

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This one’s mine. Other than talking about the illogical wrath of a deity, or when humorously speaking of enduring the anger of someone else, we don’t use this word. We prefer rage, resentment, fierce anger, vengeance, or a few other synonym-like words (pissed off). I will use the word anger because wrath is archaic. We get angry, not wrathful. I also dislike typing the silent “w,” and a rath is something else.

I could easily write a book about my own anger. If I included the whole enchilada of human nature, it would probably expand to three fat volumes, and be boring. Anger is an emotion. One foolishly considered bad or sinful. While it’s neither, it is dangerous. Anger is a legitimate and real emotion that we may each experience differently. Some people seem to be incredibly patient and tolerant, seemingly never experiencing anger. Others seem explosive, and are sent to (drum roll) Anger Management classes to learn how to behave. I like to call it Charm School.

art-memoir-analogy2An old friend of mine had to do that with his work later in life. We grew up together, and as I recall, my friend was exceptionally demonstrative when angry. It didn’t take much before he felt slighted, irritated, or offended. When we were teenagers, I either ignored him or put distance between us until he calmed down. Even later in life, I was still surprised that he could come unglued about things that I considered little more than a trivial nuisance. However, I also had my share of temper tantrums throughout life.

For most of my life, I had a sexist view of anger. I thought men experienced anger more frequently than women, and that acting out our anger was not only what men did, but it was semi-acceptable. I’ve since learned that my view was wrong (read this).

The point of view I had learned was that all other male emotions were unacceptable, and any emotional display was a sign of weakness. What this wrong opinion did for me was to allow me to exhibit angry behaviors regardless of what emotion I may have been feeling. I later learned that I not only had to get in touch with my emotions, I had to start identifying them: fear, shame, sadness, disgust, anxiety, guilt, and many more. I don’t blame society or culture. I take responsibility for my behavior, as should we all.

Another problem with anger is the difficulty of properly identifying it in either ourselves or others. Depression, anxiety, fear, and other emotions may manifest themselves, both inside and out, through behavior that could be considered anger. It’s confusing and figuring this out may take the help of a friend or counselor.

People lash out for a variety of reasons, and it may have little or nothing to do with being angry. I’ll leave it to the experts to follow this rabbit trail, but I suggest we try to pick out the different emotions we feel and deal with them for what they are. I posted about jealousy on Tuesday. Certainly, we feel some anger when we’re jealous. We need to recognize when more than one emotional thing is happening to us at a time. When I was beginning to work on this for myself, I would try to reflect on my feeling and not be pinging off the walls so much.

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Then, a close family member accused me of being an “emotionless automoton” who had no feelings and didn’t care about others. I love the memes of a light switch for turning emotions on and off. She was confusing my trying to remain calm with lack of emotion. No such luck.

Politics, religion, sports, and money are four topics that can lead to anger during many seemingly innocuous discussions. If we have not experienced the feelings ourselves, we have certainly seen them acted out by others.

wrath-4We are social (sociable or not) beings walking around in bodies transporting minds packed with emotional potential. We’re not Vulcans, like Mr. Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) in the Star Trek series. Spock was of a mixed human-Vulcan heritage race that had mostly conquered his emotions and made them subject to his control. We are simply humans.

Ironically, the death of Spock occurs in the movie The Wrath of Khan, and some think that it’s the best scene in the movie. Forgive my digression; I’m a long time Star Trek, Spock, and Leonard Nimoy fan.

This concludes my series on The Seven Deadly Sins, or Morality. I plan a summation for next Tuesday’s post that may explain my take on this from a broader perspective.

Have a wonderful weekend.
Look both ways and mind the gaps – every day.

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11 thoughts on “Morality Series: Wrath (Anger)

  1. I’ve enjoyed your series on the seven deadly sins. As for anger, I’ve often masked mine by saying “I’m upset” because that’s more socially acceptable for a woman. Just as many of the emotions you spoke of are considered unacceptable for a man to display, anger for a woman is often seen as “she’s lost her mind” or “out of control”, or “being overly emotional”, or the one that really pisses me off, “she’s crazy”.
    I worked in Human Resources for over 30 years and dealt with angry employees, male and female. Usually, it was the result of them acting out in anger and doing something they later regretted. We referred more than one employee to “Charm School”.
    Personally, I’m still conditioned to say “I’m upset” or better yet, “I’m fine.” LOL But I’ve come to realize that my anger comes from fear so when I’m feeling upset, or pissed off, I dig deep and ask myself, “what are you afraid of?” Sometimes the answer is, I thought I was right but I misunderstood a situation and need to apologize. Our egos are fragile things and often would rather be right than loved. I choose love.
    There is a spiritual path from fear to love, from the seven deadly sins to the virtues. It’s a winding path that sometimes goes in circles until we learn and grown and hopefully gain some wisdom. I’ve always liked Karen Armstrong’s analogy of our spiritual path being that of a spiral staircase, sometimes we feel like we’re going in circles, but ultimately we’re ascending the staircase of wisdom.
    ~Namaste

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  2. You really touched off some memories. When I was a kid the only emotion my dad showed was anger. And if I cried about something or was sad, he would tell me to knock it off or he’d give me something to cry about. So I actually internalized that anger was the only acceptable emotion. It wasn’t until my mid 20s, when I was having daily panic attacks that I considered perhaps that wasn’t working for me.

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  3. My (adopted) dad was a bipolar loon, extremely controlling. My (adopted) mother had a strong dose of narcissism. If anything went wrong, it was somehow not her fault, even if she was holding the cup when it broke. Being an only child meant no advocates, and if my dad had one of his classic bouts (“you are just not getting this, I was feeling fine until you started this crap, go to bed. I have a headache now.” ) she would trail along behind me, asking what I did to upset daddy.
    I learned to turn off the anger, put up a wall between me and them. It was the only way to survive, emotionally. But by bypassing it, I learned how to manage it, strangely enough.
    We do what we have to do, to progress.

    And I think there’s a difference between bottling anger up, or not letting it in, in the first place.

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  4. I think wrath is stronger than anger. Wrath is barely controlled justice. It’s those movies where the innocent sister or wife or young boy and his sweet grandmother are assaulted or killed and the powerful, dangerous hero goes and wipes out each and every villain responsible- along with a few added duels for body count- until the last and inevitable payout of comeuppance. It has to do with righteous fury and has the connotation of rage boiling out like hot lava- only the wicked should be found in the burning-down diner when it’s released.

    Anger, on the other hand, is a challenge meant to be controlled. Sometimes it’s justified, but in the human condition it’s mostly something subject to a softening agent. Sometimes it’s clear why a person is angry, and sometimes one has no idea.

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    • If it is an emotion, I don’t understand how it can be “unjustified.” What happens on the outside is behavior, it may be, or perhaps always is, based on emotion. Hopefully, it’s also based on reality.

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  5. I can see what she means about unjustified rage, wrath, anger; perhaps the person experiencing the anger feels justified, but screaming at a broken teacup or going on over a lost pen (which should be mild annoyance, not anger) and letting it spral out of bounds, suggests someone not in control of himself.

    Wrath, too, seems god-like. God torching an entire town because he was offended by one person, or directing the people of one faction to destroy the villagers and salt the earth because they refused to pay homage. Now, THAT’S wrath.

    If you kill someone in a murderous rage, I’d say that’s pretty unjustified. =)

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