Righteous Anger

Whenever I hear “That is one angry woman,” I get—you guessed it—angry. It’s as if anger is an aberration, something to be ashamed of. And of course that “one angry woman” expression induces fury in those of us who see it for what it is: an instrument of control.
I certainly agree that misdirected or purely aimless anger is problematic. That does not mean all anger should be suppressed, though. It is just one of our many emotions, which can offer guidance for how we live our lives.
Let’s consider a day in which nothing angers us. We turn on the news, learn of the latest bombings of civilians overseas and yet another mass shooting, and we likely react with a mixture of emotions—which have admittedly been tamped down in order to keep them to tolerable levels. We are sad, heartbroken really, that these things are continuing on such a frequent basis. We are likely incensed for the same reasons. Frustration is likely part of the mix, because wouldn’t we all love to be able to stop this carnage singlehandedly, yet that goal is blocked every single day. There may be several more emotions depending on your own life experience and emotional makeup, and these all deserve our attention.
Suppose you have encountered someone who keeps crossing obvious boundaries—making sexual or threatening comments, touching you despite your constant backing off—if you downplay anger in such a situation, you may reduce your awareness to the point where you fail to recognize the potential danger. Clearly, that is not a great idea.
No, I am not suggesting that you nurture every bit of your anger; it can become so overwhelming that it interferes with your physical and mental well-being, and could even lead you to act out in ways you could later regret. But it does deserve to be noted, attended to.
And of course, how you handle your anger is another matter. If I feel wronged, it does no good to cuss out the offender; in cases where they may not realize what they did, it could be helpful to point out “This is a problem because…” It is a learning opportunity they may or may not take advantage of. If you have a knee-jerk reaction to attack verbally—or worse yet, physically—following every affront, it is far more likely that the offender will feel justified and learn nothing.
So many social movements have taken hold because of anger that was well directed. Not only would we not have benefited from the Civil Rights movement, there would likely still be slaves on plantations south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Martin Luther King was noted for his emphasis on loving “our white brothers and sisters” while continuing the various protests that would bring change. John Lewis, who, on Bloody Sunday, famously suffered a cracked skull on the bridge that may soon be named after him, went on to devote the rest of his life to improving conditions in this country and was a congressional representative for several years.
Following Germaine Greer’s publication of The Feminine Mystique way back in the 1960s, a huge number of women began acknowledging their anger at the lack of opportunities for women, and thus the feminist movement took hold. Again, well directed anger.
There are clearly times when anger is inappropriate, and we would be wise to assess situations to decide when it is time to just let that go. It serves no purpose to just let it fester. But it can be a signal.
Rather than just dismiss anger out of hand, maybe we should all try our best to take a look at each situation and act accordingly.

(Photo credit: Peggy and Marco Lachman-Anke from Pixabay)

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