Most people are goofy about anger. We may have learned somewhere that it is inappropriate to be angry at all. If you grew up in the church, or grew up within certain ethnic groups – Asian, for example, or many of the northern European lines from which I hail – or if you grew up female – what you learned about anger was possibly even more maladaptive. For many of us, our personalities were formed in part around what we learned badly about anger.
There’s good reason for this. Many of us have experienced disastrous results from the expression of our own anger or because of other people’s anger in the context of family violence, the consequences of which I don’t need to detail here.
But, there is a difference between anger and aggression, and many assume that they are the same. I would like to present an alternative point of view.
I (following psychologist Neil Clark Warren) suggest that anger is a God given capacity and is an innate response to hurt, frustration and fear. I would further like to suggest – and perhaps this seems paradoxical – that harnessing the energy of anger is the key to honest, authentic, and intimate relationships.
I heard a pastor liken anger to manure. It stinks and it’s a waste product. It’s incredibly messy and requires a strategy for handling. But, when used skillfully, and when appropriately spread around a field, it promotes the healthy growth and ecological balance of an ecosystem.