Anger is the most impotent passion that accompanies the mind of man. It affects nothing it sets about, and hurts the man who is possessed by it more than the other against whom it is directed.
The disadvantages arising from anger, which are its unfailing concomicants under all circumstances, should prove a panacea for the complaint. In moments of cool reflection the man who indulges it views with a deep disgust the desolation wrought by passion. Friendship, domestic happiness, self-respect, the esteem of others, are swept away as by a whirlwind, and one brief fit of anger sometimes suffices to lay in wreck the home happiness which years have been cementing together. What crimes have not been committed in the paroxysms of anger! Has not the friend murdered his friend? the son massacred his parent? the creature blasphemed his Creator. When, indeed, the nature of this passion is considered what crimes may it not commit? Is it not the storm of the human mind which wrecks every better affection—wrecks reason and conscience, and, as a ship driven without helm or compass before the rushing gale, is not the mind borne away without guide or government by the tempest of unbounded rage?
To be angry about trifles is low and childish; to rage and be furious is brutish; and to maintain perpetual wrath is akin to the practice and temper of devils. The round of a passionate man’s life is in contracting future debts in his passionate moments which he may have to pay in the future, and when it is most inconvenient to make payment. He spends his time in outrage and acknowledgment, in injury and reparation; for anger begins in folly, but ends in repentance. Anger may be looked for in the character of weak-minded people, children not yet learned to govern themselves, and those who, for any reason, are not expected to have full command over their faculties; but no sensible man or woman in the full possession of their powers will suffer the degradation of allowing themselves to be overcome by anger without afterwards experiencing the utmost mortification.
A passionate temper renders a man unfit for advice, deprives him of his reason, robs him of all that is really great or noble in his nature; it makes him unfit for conversation, destroys friendship, changes justice into cruelty, and turns all order into confusion. Man was born to reason, to reflection, and to do all things quietly and in order. Anger takes from him this prerogative, transforms his manship into childish petulance, his reasoning powers into brute instinct. Consider, then, how much more you often suffer from your anger than from those things for which you are angry. Consider, further, whether that for which you give way to angry outbreaks is any fit compensation whatever for the degradation and loss you suffer by giving way to passion.
No man is obliged to live so free from passion as not to show some sentiment; on fit occasions it were rather stoical stupidity than virtue to do otherwise. There are times and occasions when the expression of indignation is not only justifiable but necessary. We are bound to be indignant at falsehood, selfishness, and cruelty. A man of true feeling fires up naturally at baseness or meanness of any sort, even in cases where he may be under no obligation to speak out. But then his anger is as reasonable in its outward expression as in its origin.
We must, however, be careful how we indulge in virtuous indignation. It is the handsome brother of anger and hatred. Anger may glance into the breast of a wise man, but rests only in the bosom of fools. A wise man hath no more anger than is necessary to show that he can apprehend the first wrong, nor any more revenge than justly to prevent a second.
If anger proceeds from a great cause it turns to fury; if from a small cause it is peevishness; and so it is always either terrible or ridiculous. Sinful anger, when it becomes strong, is called wrath; when it makes outrage it is fury; when it, becomes fixed it is termed hatred; and when it intends to injure any one it is called malice. All these wicked passions spring from anger. The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but conceals us from ourselves, and we injure our own cause in the eyes of the world when we too passionately and eagerly defend it.
There is many a man whose tongue might govern multitudes if he could only govern his tongue. He is the man of power who controls the storms and tempests of his mind. How sweet the serenity of habitual self-control! How many stinging self-reproaches it spares us! When does a man feel more at ease with himself than when he has passed through a sudden and strong provocation without speaking a word, or in undisturbed good humor? When, on the contrary, does he feel a deeper humiliation than when he is conscious that anger has made him betray himself? How many there are who check passion with passion, and are very angry in reproving anger! Thus to lay one devil they raise another, and leave more work to be done than they found undone. Such a reproof of anger is a vice to be reproved. Reproof either hardens or softens its object. The sword of reproof should be drawn against the offense and not against the offender.
It is not falling in the water, but remaining in it, that drowns a man. So it is not the possession of a strong and hasty temper, but the submission to it, that produces the evils incident to anger. In no other way does a man show genuine nobility more than in resolutely holding his temper subject to reason. In no other way can he so effectually attain success, for a strong temper indicates a good amount of energy; passion serves to dissipate this, so that its good effects are not perceived; whereas, under the guiding reins of self-control, this energy is gathered into a “central glow,” which renders success in any predetermined line not only a possibility but a very probable sequence.
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