Thursday, March 11, 2010

un-angry injection--Would you take it? why or why not?

A thought experiment from Raun Kaufman.

Close your eyes, and imagine for a few moments that a substance has been invented which comes as an injection, and prevents you ever getting angry for the rest of your life. The shot is totally safe, it's free, and you only need to get it once, and you will simply be incapable of feeling anger for the rest of your life.

Would you take it?

Why or why not?


  1. Nope, getting angry is an important part of being human, a healthy response when something we love is threatened. What we do with our anger is another matter.

  2. Byron,

    Do you believe it's possible to respond in a healthy manner to threats without invoking anger? Elaborate please =).

  3. Good question. I think that a healthy response to serious threats to proper objects of deep love will (and should) very often (I'm not sure I can say "always") involve anger.

    If someone kidnapped my baby daughter, I think it would be right for me to feel anger (amongst other emotions). There are all kinds of things I could do with that anger, and they may range from very unhealthy to more constructive. But the emotional response itself is natural and healthy. Part of the issue with differentiating between a healthy and an unhealthy anger concerns the object of the anger. It would probably be unhealthy if I turned my anger against, e.g. my wife, and blamed her for not looking after our daughter, or against myself and beat myself up. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate for me to feel some anger towards the kidnapper (though going out and seeking violent vengeance would not generally be a good idea), and some towards the systems and habits at a social and personal level that have contributed to him or her committing such an act, and probably some anger directed towards God might also be healthy.

    Perhaps another part of distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy anger is noting that anger is not necessarily violent rage, or loss of self-control, or brooding bitterness (these are all unhealthy forms). But a firm rejection of what is wrong (not simply accepting it as "one of those things") and a desire for justice (for things to be set right), combined with a humility that acknowledges my own failures and fallibility, these can be descriptions of an anger that might not be unhealthy.

    To take a more realistic example, I take it that your anger at the senseless war in Iraq is not entirely unhealthy (I don't see all the things you do with that anger, which might not all be healthy, but I make no judgements) and think that the world would be a worse place if such righteous indignation was muted or treated as a mistake.


  4. Byron,

    thanks for elaborating!

    The thing you describe as healthy anger doesn't sound like anger to me.

    I mean I can firmly reject what is wrong (that is, what I don't want), and desire for things to be different, and have humility which acknowledges my own failures and fallibility, and I can do all these things and *not* feel anger.

    Maybe we are talking past each other. When I say "anger", I mean an uncomfortable emotion. Is that anything like what you mean?

    I'm not currently experiencing what I would call "anger" about the war in Iraq, although I *have* done, in the past. I'm attracted to the idea that I will be *better* able to get what I want if I'm not angry--so in this instance, if I want the Iraq war to end (which isn't actually very high on my priority list, at least for today =), I'll be far more effective at taking steps toward that end if I'm clear and comfortable in myself.

  5. Yes, perhaps we are missing each other in definition. I'm not sure I've thought about how to define anger very much. My hunch that there might be healthy kinds of anger comes partially from the injunction in Ephesians 4.26 to "be angry and do not sin". I guess I'm trying to understand what might be meant by that. It's a quote from Psalm 4.4, so I guess I'd need to do a study of the terms used in each case (the Hebrew in Psalm 4, the Greek used in the Septuagint translation of Psalm 4 and the Greek used in Ephesians) to see whether anger is really the best sense of what is being conveyed (some English translations use different terms in Psalm 4, like "when you are disturbed, do not sin". I'm afraid I don't have time to look into this at the moment, and perhaps a word study might not be what you're looking for. I'm just trying to give you an idea where my feeling for the possibility of positive anger comes from. Perhaps there are better English words with less negative baggage that can convey the idea better.

    PS For some reason, I'm not getting updates when you post. I just happened to remember to come back to this thread because I've been finding it interesting (obviously). Not sure why I'm not getting notification, since I'm pretty sure I turned it on. I'll try to do so again this time.

  6. I mean I'm not getting notification when you reply, rather than when you post.