Acting from anger can destroy people's lives

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

A man comes running into the doctor's surgery shouting and screaming in pain, "Please doctor, you've got to help me! I've been stung by a bee!"

The doctor replies calmly, "Don't worry Sir; I'll put some cream on it."

"You will never find that bee doctor! It must be miles away by now!"

"No, you don't understand," said the doctor "I'll put some cream on the place you were stung."

"Oh! It happened in my garden at home, next to a tree I sat under!"'

The doctor begins to become a little frustrated with the man.

"No, Sir. I mean on which part of your body did that bee sting you?"

Still screaming in pain, the man shouts "On my finger Doc! On my finger! The bee stung me on my finger and it really hurts!"

The doctor is now angry and frustrated with the man and shouts back "Which one? Which one?"

The man looks at the doctor in confusion and screams "Mate, how am I supposed to know? All bees look the same!"

Recall that anger is a natural response to threats and helps us to defend ourselves when attacked. It also helps us survive.

But when was the last time you had to get angry with someone for your survival?

How often has your anger ever saved you from anything?

The Roman philosopher Seneca (4BC- 65AD) said "we should not control anger, but destroy it entirely - for what control is there for a thing that is fundamentally wicked?"

Seneca considered anger "temporary madness" and taught that, even when justified, we should never act on the basis of anger because, while "other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity".

Seneca understood how quickly anger can seize a person's mind which he found particularly frightening given he also noticed that anger "rises to the greatest heights from the most trivial beginnings".

The dangers of anger have been known since the ancients, yet today anger is alive and well and still making many people sick.

True, there is such a thing as righteous anger; but this is so complex and rare that to muse on it, especially in the current climate, may do more harm than good.

A couple can tell each other every morning "I love you" and for 40 years; but if on only one morning one says to the other "I hate you", not even saying "I love you" 10,000 more times can wipe it from either memory.

When you lose your temper, what is it that you lose? In some cases, everything.

I can't count the number of people I have met over the years that lost everything because of their anger or because of only one angry moment.

I can't count the number of people I have met over the years that lost everything because of their anger or because of only one angry moment.

They may have had many good reasons for their loss of focus or sobriety - the death of their mother, the loss of a job, or even drunkenness - but it was their anger that made them do what they never wanted to do.

When you lose your temper you lose your virtue of temperance which is your ability to judge things fairly and with balance.

You meant to talk, but you shouted.

You meant to walk, but you stomped.

You meant to just close that door, but when you did, they could hear the door slam in New Zealand.

Who is angry in 2020?

More people than we've experienced for decades.

Your actions become extreme when you are angry because your thinking has become extreme.

Now is a time when many people are trying to create social upheaval.

But now is not the time for revolution and pulling down statues and protesting in the middle of a pandemic.

An angry mob will rarely make good decisions.

I have heard it said "I can't help getting angry all the time. I inherited my mother's bad temper!"

No, you didn't inherit your mother's bad temper, you learnt her bad example.

But I'm sure your mother also taught you many great lessons.

Practise them and forget the prac lesson on anger.

I'm sure she'd forgive you.

Never act from anger.


Your non-action may well be the wisest action you ever make.

  • Twitter: @frbrendanelee
This story Acting from anger can destroy people's lives first appeared on The Canberra Times.