Sunday, August 9, 2020 -
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Is anger a positive or negative quality? You are probably thinking, what a dumb question, what could possibly be good about anger? In Jewish tradition as well, an angry person is equated with a worshipper of idols; and anger, in the panorama of middot or character traits, is considered one of the worst and most difficult character flaws to break or repair.

So why the question?

A friend of mine was telling me about the worst road rage she had ever witnessed. I don’t remember the details of what catalyzed the incident, but suffice to say that my friend saw the (supposedly offended) driver emerge from his car, walk over to the car causing his anger, and literally, with a surge of energy the likes of which she has never seen before, ripped the metal door handle and side mirror off the car.

My friend did not witness the ensuing scene because she turned down a side road just to get out of there.

The way she described the incident it sounded like some kind of cartoon in which a person endowed with super human powers is energized to do the unexpected.

As disturbing as it might be, this person’s anger energized him physically. Now I am not an advocate of going wild, letting such a toxic emotion nourish one’s actions or decisions. Nourish? More like poison.

But as we all know, everything is a double-edged sword. Imagine the passion and creativity this same quality of anger could fuel and accomplish. When it comes to anger, we usually say “let it go” and do, in fact, work on letting it go.

We all know that venting anger is healthy, but only up to a point. Anger is a response to pain, a sort of fight or flight response. Feeding on anger is dangerous and unhealthy. Carrying it around is, at best, dead weight, at worst — dark and ominous. Sitting and seething is wasteful. Anger is a toxic emotion. Any child can tell you that.

And yet, when my friend was recounting the road rage incident, I was struck by the power of anger.

Anger makes you care.

That is an important point to focus on. It all comes down to choosing how you use the energy of anger. True, anger can drain the life out of you, but if you channel it, it can accomplish mighty things. At the very least, you could become a boxer!

Like electricity, anger is dangerous. But electricity is there to power large equipment when it is focused in an efficient and productive way. When it’s not, the same electricity can electrocute you.

Anger is just like any fuel we use. Like a good healthy breakfast to sustain us, anger needs to be used efficiently, not wastefully. To waste anger is a shame, just as to go wild would be. Utilizing the raw emotion of anger can accomplish and build endless things.

A calm person by nature, I have always been a bit intimidated by people who have the volatile streak. In my mind, anger was purely negative and damaging.

I never saw anger in this light before: anger is a sign you care.

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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