Tagged: “healthy anger”

My anger is what motivates me to solve problems and to uphold justice. Forgiveness is the “opiate of the people,” reducing anger and thus reducing our motivation to seek and to find fair solutions. Can you convince me otherwise?

This is a good challenge and so I thank you for the question. There are different kinds of anger. One kind, which I call healthy anger, is expressed within reasonable, appropriate limits and can energize us to seek fair solutions. You are talking about healthy anger.

We also have the kind of anger that sits inside of us and chips away at our energy, our well-being, our very happiness. This kind of anger we could call resentment or unhealthy anger. Forgiveness targets this kind of anger and helps to reduce it so it does not destroy the forgiver. As a person forgives, he or she sees more clearly, not less clearly, that what happened was unfair. Thus, someone who forgives is not likely to fall into an unnatural state of lethargy regarding the injustice.

So, keep your healthy anger and fight for justice. Forgiveness is not a foe of justice, keeping it at a distance. Instead, justice and forgiveness can work side by side for a better world. If you think about it, don’t you think that you will be better able to fight for justice if your energy is not brought low by unhealthy anger? Forgiveness can be of considerable help here in aiding the person to control the kind of anger that can thwart the quest for justice.

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I think anger is normal.  You do not seem to think so.  Would you please clarify?

We have to make a distinction between healthy anger and unhealthy anger.  Healthy anger occurs as a short-term reaction to others’ unfairness.  The anger emerges because the one being treated unfairly knows that all people are worthy of respect, even oneself.  Unhealthy anger occurs when the initial reaction of healthy anger does not end, but intensifies and remains in the person’s heart for months or even many years.  At that point, the anger can have quite negative effects on one’s energy, ability to concentrate, and on one’s overall well-being.  Healthy anger is normal.  Unhealthy anger needs attention and amelioration.

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Can healthy anger eventually develop into unhealthy anger?

Yes, this is possible. When treated unfairly by others, it is natural to have some anger because this is showing the other and you that you are a person of worth who should not be treated this way. If you continue to think about what happened, and if the anger starts to grow more deeply and pervasively, then you need an outlet for this development. Forgiving can be such a response. If, however, you do not have any outlet at all and continue with the rumination on what happened, then that anger can become so deep that over a period of time (perhaps many months) it develops into the unhealthy kind, leading to possible anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and even hatred toward the other. Forgiveness is an important antidote to all of this.

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“Is it harder to forgive if a person is filled with anger compared with another person who is filled with pain and sorrow after being treated unfairly?”

It seems to me that if the anger is very intense and includes resentment or even hatred, then, yes, it is harder to forgive. Some people who are fuming with anger cannot even use the word “forgiveness” because it intensifies the anger. At the same time, if a person has deep sorrow, sometimes there is an accompanying lack of energy and the person needs some time to mourn first. At such times, the person needs to be gentle with the self as emotional healing takes place.

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How do I know if my anger is healthy or unhealthy?

Healthy anger is a response to injustice that is short-lived. Healthy anger basically is your way of saying, “What you did was unfair. I deserve better than that.” Unhealthy anger differs from this in: a) its intensity [There may be insults or a temper tantrum, for example.]; b) its duration [It can last for months or years.]; c) its effect on the one who is angry [This kind of anger can deplete energy and increase anxiety.]; d) its effect on the one who offended [It can lead to the other feeling inappropriately attacked.]; and e) its effect on others [The one with unhealthy anger can displace the anger onto unsuspecting other people.].

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

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