The Uses Of Rage

In my early twenties, I worked for a man with an unbelievably bad temper.

I once saw him grow so angry at his nephew he fired a rifle into the air and screamed at him until tears were flowing down his cheeks.

Another time I watched him panic as one of his employees lost control of a wheelbarrow full of wet cement, then literally throw his hat on the ground and stomp on it like a Rumplestiltskin when the concrete spilled out onto the grass.

As men, we tend to believe our anger is a powerful and intimidating tool at our disposal… that our outburst will be “terrible to behold.”

But in truth, it does not meeken or cow those we direct it at like we think it will.

It does not prove our masculinity.

It does not cleanse our negative energy in some cathartic purge.

In the movies, so long as the villain remains calm, he has our respect.

But as soon as he loses his head and bursts out in anger, we know instinctively that he is finished. We no longer fear him. He becomes pathetic.

As men, we love the flood of righteous anger.

When we sit in the theater and watch the enraged farmer turned warrior raise his blade to slit the throat of the man who executed his young wife… we feel his blood lust pulsing in our own veins, and we nearly break the arms off the theater seats as we watch.

And, no doubt, if we were ever to find ourselves in his shoes, such rage would be justified.

But we are not in the wilds of medieval Scotland.

We are blessed / cursed with peacetime.

Nine times out of ten, venting is the most workless response we can make.

Here’s a better use:

Instead of spilling that rage onto the ground in an impotent outburst…

Hold on to it.

Gather it into your heart.

Discern the true root.

See if that rage is merited.

And if so, use it for fuel.

Use it to create a smouldering, long burning fire in yourself.

Convert it into dark, piercing works or art, works of enterprise, and works of love that do not merely burn the air in a momentary flash, as outbursts do, but burn long, searing holes in the night.

Respect what is right in your rage enough to give it a calm voice.

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