On Anger, Book II, X

You will rather think that we should not be angry with people’s faults; for what shall we say of one who is angry with those who stumble in the dark, or with deaf people who cannot hear his orders, or with children, because they forget their duty and interest themselves in the games and silly jokes of their companions?

What shall we say if you choose to be angry with weaklings for being sick, for growing old, or becoming fatigued?

Among the other misfortunes of humanity is this, that men’s intellects are confused, and they not only cannot help going wrong, but love to go wrong.

To avoid being angry with individuals, you must pardon the whole mass, you must grant forgiveness to the entire human race.

If you are angry with young and old men because they do wrong, you will be angry with infants also, for they soon will do wrong.

Does anyone become angry with children, who are too young to comprehend distinctions?

Yet, to be a human being is a greater and a better excuse than to be a child.

Thus are we born, as creatures liable to as many disorders of the mind as of the body; not dull and slow-witted, but making a bad use of our keenness of wit, and leading one another into vice by our example.

He who follows others who have started before him on the wrong road is surely excusable for having wandered on the highway. [28]

A general’s severity may be shown in the case of individual deserters; but where a whole army deserts, it must needs be pardoned.

What is it that puts a stop to the wise man’s anger?

It is the number of sinners.

He perceives how unjust and how dangerous it is to be angry with vices which all men share.

Heraclitus, whenever he came out of doors and beheld around him such a number of men who were living wretchedly, nay, rather perishing wretchedly, used to weep: he pitied all those who met him joyous and happy.

He was of a gentle but too weak disposition: and he himself was one of those for whom he ought to have wept.

Democritus, on the other hand, is said never to have appeared in public without laughing; so little did men’s serious occupations appear serious to him.

What room is there for anger?

Everything ought either to move us to tears or to laughter.

The wise man will not be angry with sinners.

Why not?

Because he knows that no one is born wise, but becomes so: he knows that very few wise men are produced in any age, because he thoroughly understands the circumstances of human life.

Now, no sane man is angry with nature: for what should we say if a man chose to be surprised that fruit did not hang on the thickets of a forest, or to wonder at bushes and thorns not being covered with some useful berry?

No one is angry when nature excuses a defect.

The wise man, therefore, being tranquil, and dealing candidly with mistakes, not an enemy to but an improver of sinners, will go abroad every day in the following frame of mind:⁠—“Many men will meet me who are drunkards, lustful, ungrateful, greedy, and excited by the frenzy of ambition.”

He will view all these as benignly as a physician does his patients.

When a man’s ship leaks freely through its opened seams, does he become angry with the sailors or the ship itself?

No; instead of that, he tries to remedy it: he shuts out some water, bales out some other, closes all the holes that he can see, and by ceaseless labour counteracts those which are out of sight and which let water into the hold; nor does he relax his efforts because as much water as he pumps out runs in again.
We need a long-breathed struggle against permanent and prolific evils; not, indeed, to quell them, but merely to prevent their overpowering us.