‘Anger is not the opposite of love’

Anger is also a messenger. It always has something to tell us about who we are and how we are connected with those around us. This is part of why anger can be so difficult and complicated: it reminds us what matters to us. We rarely become angry about something or someone we do not care about. In her groundbreaking essay “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love,” Beverly Wildung Harrison writes, “Anger is not the opposite of love. It is better understood as a feeling-signal that all is not well in our relation to other persons or groups or to the world around us. Anger is a mode of connectedness to others and it is always a vivid form of caring.” She goes on to write, “Where anger rises, there the energy to act is present.”

– Jan Richardson, “Tender Anger: Sunday, Lent 3

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Las Vegas Sun,Mother, stepfather arrested in beating death of 7-year-old

The boy’s stepfather, Markiece Palmer, 34, and the boy’s mother, Dina Palmer, 27, were arrested and charged with murder, child abuse and neglect in the beating death of Roderick Arrington, a second-grader at Roundy Elementary School.

… Arrington was admitted to the UMC’s pediatric intensive care unit in critical condition. A doctor reported that Arrington suffered from strokes and fixed pupils and had bruises on the arms, abdomen, back, legs, thighs and buttocks.

… Arrington had surgery but died sometime after he was admitted to the hospital. Metro, in its news release Tuesday, said the boy died Friday.

… Last Tuesday, Markiece Palmer admitted to police that he spanked Arrington because he allegedly lied about reading a chapter in the Bible.

Frederick Buechner:

These parents filled the scalding water with their child to punish him and, scalding and scalded, he died crying out in tongues as I heard it reported on the radio on my way back from of all places church and prayed to almighty God to kick to pieces such a world or to kick to pieces Himself and His Son and His Holy Ghost world without end standing there by the side of that screaming tub and doing nothing while with his scrawny little buttocks bare, the hopeless little 4-year-old whistle, the child was lowered in his mother’s arms. …

 

  • PurpleAardvaark

    When I was in college (during “The Sixties” which I can remember even if I WAS there) it was common to remark that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference.

  • http://dinoharpist.blogspot.com/ Ch81602

    And now you know why religion poisons everything! Especially when it delusionally equates anger with love. Hate goes better with anger rather than love. 

  • Fusina

     First. Anger in and of itself is not a bad thing.

    Second. Anger does not mean one hates the thing one is angry with.

    Third. Anger _may_ add to excessive abuse, but it is not the initial cause.

    One of my favorite episodes in my daughter’s life was when she stomped her foot and declared (from across the room–kid wasn’t stupid) that she was very angry with me. I was delighted that she felt free enough to express her anger, and told her I was so glad she felt she could without having to fear reprisals. Um. The confused look on her face will delight me til I die. But I was glad. I could never express anger toward my Mom because two things would happen. She would declare that I obviously didn’t love her (and this continues til today, actually) and I would get a spanking for disrespect. Anger is not disrespect. It just is. What we do with and about it is what can be labelled bad.

    Um. I have some experience with anger, can you tell? ;-)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     And now you know why religion poisons everything! Especially when it
    delusionally equates anger with love. Hate goes better with anger rather
    than love.

    That’s an…interesting interpretation.

    Tell me.  If someone was doing something horrible to someone you love and you  responded by becoming angry about the situation, would you call your anger hatred?  Because if so…you’re probably doing it wrong.

    Anger is correlational, not causational.  It appears as a response to injustice (real or perceived) and then can be channeled into a response, either appropriate or inappropriate.  To claim otherwise is to misunderstand the nature of anger as well as love and hate.

    Oh, and to head off the obvious retort at the pass: I’m an atheist.  Christopher Hitchens’ god is not Great is one of the first and only specifically atheist books about atheism I ever read.  I didn’t bother to dig much further because my primary reaction was, “Well, if this bullshit is the best they can do, why bother?”

  • http://dinoharpist.blogspot.com/ Ch81602

    That I understand what you’re all trying to say. I do get angry from time to time when someone I care about does or says something wrong. But that doesn’t mean I hate them or I’ll do something really mean and cruel to them. I agree that both love and anger are the same expressions that’s meant to be delt with in a very positive matter instead of being delt with in a cruel and heartless matter like what these heartless parents have done to their kids.   

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     I do get angry from time to time when someone I care about does or says
    something wrong. But that doesn’t mean I hate them or I’ll do something
    really mean and cruel to them.

    Two things.

    First, the above-quoted statement actually argues against and rejects the first statement you made about this, specifically:

    Hate goes better with anger rather than love.

    Second, you’re still completely ignoring the context of the original quoted bit, as in, this:

    Anger is also a messenger. It always has something to tell us about who
    we are and how we are connected with those around us. This is part of
    why anger can be so difficult and complicated: it reminds us what
    matters to us. We rarely become angry about something or someone we do
    not care about.

    It’s not about anger as an emotional response and/or value judgment.  It’s about anger as an emotion that cannot exist in a vacuum.  The question isn’t, “Why do I get angry?” but, “Why am I angry because of [this thing]?”

    That is, unless you’re someone with anger issues of some sort.  That’s a whole ‘nother conversation and one more for the psychologists than the philosophers.

  • http://dinoharpist.blogspot.com/ Ch81602

    Sorry. I admit I’m not really good at psychology. Never mind then. You proved your point. 

  • flat

    anger is fuel, you have to learn how to understand it before you can use it.

  • Vermic

    I vividly remember sitting in the theater watching Clerks.  There’s a scene in which main character Dante is on the phone, being told that he’ll need to pull a full day’s shift at the convenience store.  Dante, not at all pleased with the news, loses his cool for a second, but then quickly apologizes to the caller for yelling and hangs up, accepting his fate.

    Afterwards his friend Randal sidles up.  “I heard you apologize,” he says.  “Why?  You had every right in the world to be angry.

    That line stuck with me all day, because I was 24 years old and it was the first time I had ever heard somebody say, in so many words, that being angry was a thing which could be okay.  It was quite a revelation.  Before then, I think I’d always assumed that anger was … well, not bad exactly, but not optimal — a sign that you weren’t thinking clearly or reacting in the best way.  It had never occurred to me that one might have the right (let alone the duty) to be angry.

    Rather a liberating moment, actually.

  • Carstonio

    Anger in others does seem to me to be the opposite of love, because it sets off my danger signals even when I’m not the target of the anger. Depending on the level of anger, I might expect the angry person to act like the Palmers, or in most cases, to hate me or not love me anymore. I don’t feel loved when I’m the target of anger. Conversely, when I get angry I feel guilty afterward like I’ve done something wrong.

    An incident from my childhood that typifies most anger for me – walking home from school, an older student in the safety patrol kept me standing on the corner for about 20 minutes while letting other students cross. He would tell the others they could cross, and then turn to me and snarl, “Not you!” I had no idea why he was doing this. After a while I just crossed the street myself, walking fast, and for whatever reason he didn’t even pursue me. I still remember the relief I felt when he moved on to junior high at the end of the year. The whole incident never made sense to me.

    I won’t even get into what my father did to me the two times I got angry at him as a teenager.

  • Michael Pullmann

     Quick, what kind of statement is “religion poisons everything!”

  • http://dinoharpist.blogspot.com/ Ch81602

    Religion poisons everything. As well as a menace to civilization, it has
    become a threat to human survival. – Christopher Hitchens

    That’s where the statement came from. I haven’t made it up.  

  • http://dinoharpist.blogspot.com/ Ch81602

    I honestly don’t want to get into this anymore. You all have proven your point. Like I said, I’m no good at psychology so it won’t do me any good to say anymore about it since you’ve all proved your point in this.  

  • Morilore

    Some atheists around here are really reaching recently.

  • Dana

    My interpretation of anger is that it’s an evaluative emotion. Any feeling of anger involves an implicit claim or evaluation (that the person you’re angry at did something wrong, for which they should be blamed). That’s why we can judge anger as appropriate or inappropriate: anger is inappropriate if it’s aimed at someone who didn’t actually do anything wrong, or who did something incorrect but can’t reasonably be blamed for it, or did something wrong but only a very minor thing. But failing to be angry when anger *is* appropriate is just as bad as being angry when anger is inappropriate.

  • Mary Kaye

    Some water leaked through the ceiling of my lab one year, and afterwards we noticed black spots on the ceiling tiles, and our skin started itching, and our eyes watered, and we coughed a lot whenever we were in the room.  I called building management, which said nothing was wrong; but a few days later we could hardly stand to be in there.  (To this day, if I open a box of papers packed away from that period, I break out in a rash.)

    I was angry about this, and I think that was entirely helpful, because it gave me the energy boost to get on the phone and make a fuss.  Eventually they sent a team of environmental engineers who looked at our ceiling, put on hazmat suits, and scraped it down to the bare concrete and put in a new ceiling.  It was quite a dangerous mold, apparently.

    If I hadn’t gotten mad I might not have done anything.  If I hadn’t done anything my whole lab group might have ended up in the hospital.

    The trick is to get mad at the right people or institutions–at the people who can fix the problem and not, say, the person who tells you about it–and to get mad in a productive way.  I didn’t rant or insult, but I was persistent and loud and slightly threatening (“one of my people is pregnant, and you should realize that we can’t endanger a pregnant employee’s health.”)  I was not willing to “be nice” and go away.

    I am always suspicious when someone preaches against anger, because that’s a standard trick of oppressors who think that if you get angry you may rise up against them.

    On the other hand, due to mental-health issues my son spends a lot of time in a haze of undirected, purposeless anger, and that’s not good at all.  It doesn’t help him attack his real problems, and it leads to harm to random targets.  I hope we can eventually teach him to direct it better.

  • stardreamer42

    On the other hand, due to mental-health issues my son spends a lot of
    time in a haze of undirected, purposeless anger, and that’s not good at
    all.

    That’s a pretty good description of the state of mind the Rabid Right has chosen to induce in its followers — without the excuse of mental illness. Scratch a neocon these days, and you’ll find someone who is always angry, although the target of the anger changes from moment to moment.

    It is only nominally paradoxical that indifference is the opposite of both love and hate.

  • Tricksterson

    I would say it was more like fire.  Depending on the use and degree of control you exercise over it it can either be very useful or extremely destructive.

  • Lawrence090469

    Ah, but anger leads to hate. Hate leads to…suffering. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Even if we accept the premise that suffering leads to the Dark Side, that doesn’t mean it’s a reason to avoid anger. Anger can lead to fixing suffering as easily as to inflicting suffering, and there’s plenty of suffering that occurs without anyone so much as consciously thinking poorly of the person or group that’s in pain.

  • banancat

    I don’t think anger is the cause of abuse.  This is actually a rare case where the abusers didn’t cover up their crime.  But usually abusers are fairly cold and calculating.  Even if they are angry during times of abuse, they get angry plenty of other times without abusing anyone when it would be to their own detriment.  I think a lot of abusers use anger as an excuse.  They may or may not actually be feeling angry, but it takes more than anger to abuse someone.

  • Baby_Raptor

    “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” 

    Possibly irrelevant Rent quote. 

  • Tricksterson

    Yes, but a wonderful quote in any context.

  • Tricksterson

    Which leads to a crappy trilogy.

  • Carstonio

     That doesn’t sound right, because anyone is capable of lashing out violently if sufficiently angered or provoked. You might have a point if we were talking about abusive and manipulative personalities.

  • EllieMurasaki

    We’re not?

    I admit I haven’t read the stories under discussion, but the excerpts alone–nobody goes from zero to beating a kid to death. Even the least generous interpretation I can imagine of someone ‘lashing out violently’ without a history of being an abuser, two or three blows and then the kid is bleeding and cringing and wailing and the adult realizes what’s going on and gets a hold of themselves. Someone who beats a kid to death is someone who is accustomed to beating people, probably the kid in question. Or else someone who’s trying to murder the kid.

  • Carstonio

    Obviously not everyone is capable of beating a kid to death, whether they start from zero or not. But the alternate situation you describe is probably capable of happening with anyone. I’ve seen things like that happen. And even then, we can’t rule out the person becoming so possessed by rage and fury that he or she ends up killing the other without meaning to.

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    It’s worth noting that Randall Graves is not consistently portrayed in Clerks as someone whose advice is always good, wise, honest, or worth following — but his point about anger was a good one.

    It’s interesting to note that wrath is the only one of the seven deadly sins frequently ascribed to God; it would be very odd to hear a priest or pastor preach about God’s righteous avarice, righteous envy (though God is described as jealous, which is a close cousin of envy), righteous gluttony, righteous lust, righteous pride (although that one is implicit in the idea that God punishes people for failing to worship Him), or righteous sloth, but when it comes to righteous wrath, they’re all over that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    God’s [...] righteous lust

    God/Mary? Or I hear people confuse God with Zeus. Hera can throw all the fits she likes about his philandering and she’s entirely right to do so, since he swore sexual fidelity to her and he breaks that vow weekly, but it’s hard to deny that Zeus’s mortal kids have a lot of saved lives attibuted to them.

    (Thing that always amuses me? Heracles’s mother is a descendant of Perseus, who is a son of Zeus. Heracles himself is a son of Zeus. Small potatoes considering Zeus had kids with two of his sisters, but.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am really not seeing that happening, unless the person beaten to death did something really fucking provocative. Which might boil down to Living While Gay or Living While Trans, yes, because people are bigoted fuckwits, but–okay, you didn’t read this article either, did you. Because I just opened it to see if maybe there was more going on than the kid lying, and here’s the triggery as fuck money quote:

    [The adult] admitted to police that he hit [the kid he killed] on multiple occasions using various household items such as his belt, a spatula and wooden paddle, as well as with his hands.

    We are in fact discussing someone with a history of abuse.

  • Carstonio

     Your points are excellent ones as far as the Palmers are concerned. I’m suggesting that for someone who doesn’t have that history of abuse, it’s still reasonable for others to fear that the person’s anger might grow to the point where he or she becomes violent, even if briefly. When I talk about provocation, I don’t mean that anyone who provokes rage in someone else deserves the lashing out. That’s like blaming a person who was attacked by a bear or a vicious dog.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m suggesting that for someone who doesn’t have that history of abuse, it’s still reasonable for others to fear that the person’s anger might grow to the point where he or she becomes violent, even if briefly.

    I disagree. Of course it’s possible for someone who has never been violent to become violent, but why would someone else be afraid of that happening? The first person has never been violent.

    When I talk about provocation, I don’t mean that anyone who provokes rage in someone else deserves the lashing out.

    No shit.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And that comment I just made makes the assumption that the someone in fear knows that the nonviolent person has no history of violence, which is not a reasonable assumption to make if the people are strangers or casual acquaintances. Sorry.

  • Carstonio

     

    Of course it’s possible for someone who has never been violent to become
    violent, but why would someone else be afraid of that happening?

    Experiences with other people who became angry first and then violent.

  • http://www.aqualgidus.org/ Michael Chui

    That’s the short version. Here’s the long version: http://darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0137.html

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Yep.  As some wise person pointed out, if abusers REALLY couldn’t ‘control their anger’, most of them would be in jail or dead already.


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