Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” – Mark Twain, American author
Lon Jacobe, writing for Parade, related an anecdote about who is the king of the jungle. And so, the lion approached a rhinoceros and asked, “Who is the king of the jungle?” To which the rhinoceros replied, “You are, O lion.”
The lion went up to the hippopotamus and asked again, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The same reply: “You are, O lion.”
Whereupon, the lion went up to the elephant and asked the same question. The elephant seized the lion with his trunk, whirled him around, tossed him in the air, caught him on the way down, and slammed him into a tree.
Half-dazed, severely beaten, the lion shook himself and managed to mutter: “Just because you don’t know the right answer, you don’t have to get angry.”
That may be funny, but anger is a serious subject matter. Aristotle said, “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Joel Osteen also said, “Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge in these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness.”
In an interview with CBS radio host, Don Swaim in 1987, award-winning author Toni Morrison said, “Anger… it’s a paralyzing emotion… you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling – I don’t think it’s any of that – it’s helpless… it’s absence of control – and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers… and anger doesn’t provide any of that – I have no use for it whatsoever.”
Everyone gets angry: man or woman, child or adult, famous or infamous, the weak and the strong. No one is spared from anger. Even Jesus Christ was angry when he saw the people using the church as a public market.
At the University of Leyden in Holland, they have famous disputes and arguments for the public. An old shoemaker, who had little or no education, was often seen in the audience.
As the public debates were held in Latin, and he knew nothing of this tongue, a friend once asked why he came to the discussions. “I don’t know what is said,” the cobbler replied, “but I know who is wrong in the argument.”
The friend was surprised by what he heard. “How,” he inquired. The shoemaker replied, “By seeing who is angry first.”
Elizabeth Kenny, the famed Australian nurse behind the Kenny method of polio treatment, was once asked by a friend how she managed to stay so constantly cheerful despite all the troubles she encountered. “I suppose you were just born calm and smiling,” the friend commented.
“Of course, not,” Kenny replied. “As a girl, my temper often got out of bounds. But one day, when I became angry at a friend over some trivial matter, my mother gave me the counsel that I have since stored in my mind, and have called upon for guidance ever since.”
Ever wondered what Kenny’s mother told her? “Elizabeth,” the mother said, “anyone who angers you, conquers you.”
That’s one way of conquering anger. Here’s another one, related by Clifton Fadiman, which happened to Edwin Stanton, the secretary of war of American President Abraham Lincoln.
Stanton had some trouble with a major general who accused him in the abusive language of favoritism. When he could no longer control his anger, he complained to the president. After hearing his dilemma, the president suggested that he write the office a strident letter.
Stanton obliged, and after doing so, he showed the strongly-worded letter to the president, who praised its powerful language. “What are you going to do with it?” Lincoln inquired.
He was totally flabbergasted with the question of Lincoln. “Why, send it, of course,” he told the president.
But Lincoln objected. “No, you don’t want to send that letter,” the president said. “Put it on the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter and you have a good time writing it, and now you feel better. So, the best thing you can do now is burn it and write another.”
I was reminded of the words of Laurence J. Peter. “Speak when you are angry,” he said, “and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Don’t let that feeling of wanting revenge to engulf you. But how? “When angry, count to ten before you speak,” advised American President Thomas Jefferson. “If very angry, count to one hundred.”
More importantly, ask for direction from that Someone Up There. “Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God,” Rob Bell argues. “To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, ‘God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.’
“The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses and arguments,” Bell continues. “The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, ‘Me, too.’”