On Anger, Book III, V

You ask me, whither does all this tend?

To prove, I answer, that no one should imagine himself to be safe from anger, seeing that it rouses up even those who are naturally gentle and quiet to commit savage and violent acts.

As strength of body and assiduous care of the health avail nothing against a pestilence, which attacks the strong and weak alike, so also steady and good-humoured people are just as liable to attacks of anger as those of unsettled character, and in the case of the former it is both more to be ashamed of and more to be feared, because it makes a greater alteration in their habits.

Now as the first thing is not to be angry, the second to lay aside our anger, and the third to be able to heal the anger of others as well as our own, I will set forth first how we may avoid falling into anger; next, how we may set ourselves free from it, and, lastly, how we may restrain an angry man, appease his wrath, and bring him back to his right mind.

We shall succeed in avoiding anger, if from time to time we lay before our minds all the vices connected with anger, and estimate it at its real value: it must be prosecuted before us and convicted: its evils must be thoroughly investigated and exposed.

That we may see what it is, let it be compared with the worst vices.

Avarice scrapes together and amasses riches for some better man to use: anger spends money; few can indulge in it for nothing.

How many slaves an angry master drives to run away or to commit suicide! how much more he loses by his anger than the value of what he originally became angry about!

Anger brings grief to a father, divorce to a husband, hatred to a magistrate, failure to a candidate for office.

It is worse than luxury, because luxury enjoys its own pleasure, while anger enjoys another’s pain.

It is worse than either spitefulness or envy; for they wish that someone may become unhappy, while anger wishes to make him so: they are pleased when evil befalls one by accident, but anger cannot wait upon fortune; it desires to injure its victim personally, and is not satisfied merely with his being injured.

Nothing is more dangerous than jealousy: it is produced by anger.

Nothing is more ruinous than war: it is the outcome of powerful men’s anger; and even the anger of humble private persons, though without arms or armies, is nevertheless war.

Moreover, even if we pass over its immediate consequences, such as heavy losses, treacherous plots, and the constant anxiety produced by strife, anger pays a penalty at the same moment that it exacts one: it forswears human feelings.

The latter urge us to love, anger urges us to hatred: the latter bid us do men good, anger bids us do them harm.

Add to this that, although its rage arises from an excessive self-respect and appears to show high spirit, it really is contemptible and mean: for a man must be inferior to one by whom he thinks himself despised, whereas the truly great mind, which takes a true estimate of its own value, does not revenge an insult because it does not feel it.

As weapons rebound from a hard surface, and solid substances hurt those who strike them, so also no insult can make a really great mind sensible of its presence, being weaker than that against which it is aimed.

How far more glorious is it to throw back all wrongs and insults from oneself, like one wearing armour of proof against all weapons, for revenge is an admission that we have been hurt. That cannot be a great mind which is disturbed by injury.

He who has hurt you must be either stronger or weaker than yourself.

If he be weaker, spare him: if he be stronger, spare yourself.