Monday, March 23, 2009

Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath/Anger Part 1

I missed week two of the Kay's Seven Deadly Sins Meme. The sin was Wrath - which the dictionary defines as "vengeful anger." Given how much vengeful anger is floating around in the world these days, I just kind of hate to have missed that one, so I'm going to post something now even though I'm two weeks late doing so.

I have a lot to say - or at least a lot of opinions and thoughts - on this subject. So much so that I got stuck chasing my tail yesterday when I tried to write this. Probably most of what I want to say is about plain and simple anger, but given events of the times, I think I also want to talk about vengeful anger. Plain ordinary old anger is - despite what most of us are taught - often a healthy response to events around us, but vengeful anger I think is truly "sinful." It is destructive to the well being of all parties.

Vengeful anger (and greed and power lust and dishonesty) is what took us into Iraq. Vengeful anger is what blew up the World Trade Centers. Vengeful anger is what keeps Israelis and Palestinians justifying the continuous drawing of one another's blood. Vengeful anger is what keeps the death penalty in place and allows our society to kill other - often innocent - human beings in the name of justice.

The worst thing about vengeful anger is that it seldom accomplishes much except to breed more misery. Each vengeful act in the Middle East provokes another and the blood of innocents is shed more richly than that of the so-called "guilty" on either side.

Right now in this country around the issue of the economy there is a lot of vengeful anger stewing. I'm not immune to it myself. I didn't have any money for Bernie Madoff to steal but I'm thrilled and delighted to see someone who has harmed so many and lived lavishly on their money - in jail. I have always found golden parachutes and million dollar bonuses offensive and obscene even when they were spending what was allegedly "corporate money." That corporate money, we now know, was really pretty much really high class sleight-of-hand theft... but now it's tax payer's money. The same tax payers who are losing their homes and their jobs. And boy, oh boy vengeance sounds so sweet. Throw them all out on the street. Write laws that violate our constitution and the nature of our law.... It all feels good for a few minutes. But it doesn't solve the problems and it makes everything too simple. One of the really annoying (and wonderful) things about life is (to me) that it is NEVER simple.

Right now we, as a nation, are frightened and feeling very helpless. The constant prattling of ignorant and semi ignorant people who are paid to entertain us with their opinions feeds our anxiety with half truths, truth mixed with lies, truth mixed with ignorance, pure ignorance, pure lies.... It leaves my head spinning. No wonder we all feel crazy! If I had any sense, I'd turn my TV off.... but I can't seem to get myself to do it... But back to the topic at hand.

There is an instinct in this situation to want revenge. Let those companies fail. Throw the bums out on the street. Fire them all. I have those same instincts, but at the same time I also believe that the complexity of the world economy is so far beyond my ability to comprehend that we need people who understand it - even if they have behaved badly - to help fix what they broke. It may piss me off, but who am I shooting in the foot if short-term gratification of quick punishment tanks the world economy? I think there will still be time to punish them later and to write good laws that put limits on the golden parachute life.

But I've wandered off from the topic again. Sorry. Vengeful wrath is kind of like the instant gratification form of anger and reparation. My first therapist once said to me. "We become the thing we hate." It took me a while to comprehend what he meant, but I think it's one of the truest and wisest things I ever heard. Vengeance is about hate. Hate is always destructive and as destructive to the hater as the hatee. I think we usually move to the desire for vengeance when we feel helpless and frightened. Maybe it makes us feel better for a few minutes but it doesn't solve the problem and usually makes it worse... which makes us want more vengeance... and it goes on and on.

I don't know how much sense I'm making here. I do think there is a place for holding people accountable, for asking for, if not retribution, at least responsiblity and an appropriate punishment.

Digressing again. Sort of anyway... As anyone who has visited here for any amount of time knows, I have a lot of anger about the actions of the previous administration and many things which I consider to be crimes committed under the aegis of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I believe that these men and their administration should be held accountable for actions which caused great harm to the nation and the world. I know some think this is vengeful on my part. I'm human and there is a bit of vengefulness in my wanting to see these men go to jail or at the least go on trial. I think it would be vengeance if I wanted them murdered, hung from the highest tree, boiled in oil. I don't want that. I don't even want them thrown in jail without a trial (that would be poetic justice maybe, but it would be vengeance and not helpful). I want the Bush administration held accountable because they represented me and the country I love and launched a war that didn't have to be fought and violated the letter and the spirit of our laws on multiple fronts here at home. If these things are true - and a trial can help decide that - they - and we as a nation - should be held accountable. Asking for accountability isn't vengeance. It's about healing our own national soul.

I guess I bring this up because I think vengeance - rash, usually physically or emotionally violent - is inherently destructive. One of the few "sins" I think is genuinely sinful, wicked, evil, bad, not good, self-destructive, other-destructive, and genuinely not helpful. In the end, finding peaceful, constructive, thoughtful, comprehensive ways to hold people accountable for their actions is more effective. It may not carry the adreneline rush that rage does, but it can lead to real change instead of repeated craziness.

So that's my rambling for today on - sort of - the subject of wrath. At sometime over the next few days, I want to try to write something about anger because I have a whole theory about anger that I love sharing with anyone who will listen. Just have to get my act together to write it down.

I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful day, free of angst and wrath.

Deadly sins posts:

Wrath Part 1


Mojo said...

Okay, so you got it out of order. that doesn't make your point one bit less valid. I've wished all manner of ill will on the former occupants of the White House -- and those who supported them in lock step -- knowing full well that it accomplished nothing. And I thought that the last two elections (2006 and 2008) would have been ample notice that we'd had enough. And yet, right up until the last day the administration was trying to shove through another piece of damaging legislation.

Have things changed? On one level, yes they have. Maybe I'm mistaken, but it seems like the current residents of Washington are making some effort to keep things transparent rather than shrouded in mystery. It all seems a lot more "above board". Or maybe it only seems that way because I've become so used to the spewage of lies and half truths issuing from the White House and Capitol Hill.

But the ones who lost the last election have rallied -- and are rallying -- around a flag of what they consider "virtue". When in fact, what they're rallying around is a loss of ill-gotten privilege owed to them by the previous administration as payment for their support.

It pisses me off no end, and on my bad days... yeah, I want vengeance.

Danny Boy said...

Wrath - a truly sinful act that - to me - is truly unjustified in any actions. I have noticed that people will be wrathful towards other for even the simplest mistakes. What we do and how we conduct ourselves is either helpful or harmful to others. Both anger and love - in any form - is like a virus. At the opposites of each other they are equally as harmful/helpful. Although wrath/hate is more fast acting and love/joy is more affective over time. I guess my point is you should not bring wrath to another because it does more harm than good.

I do agree with Raven that the former administration should be held accountable for their unjust actions. And they should under close watch be made to fix what they have done.

robbieschlosser2 said...

Hi. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and the comments that followed. Thanks. A friend I knew in high school (he's on Facebook as Ravens, and when I saw your blog, I thought it was his). His blog is, and I think you might enjoy reading it.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hi, Raven

Firstly, thank you for coming by my blog and leaving such a kind comment. I really appreciated hearing from you.

Wrath certainly is the primary reason we inflict so many socially acceptable as well as unacceptable wrongs. Child abuse, partner abuse, capital punishment, war, torture.

When I stop to think about just how we have come to this place in time and continue to perpetuate misery based in vengeful acts, I'm stunned. Could the overwhelming majority of the world's people really want wrath that causes so much death, destruction and suffering? If not, why do we roll over so easily when our nations call our soldiers to war?

The human desire for vengeance has taken on such huge dimensions. To put it simply, where once it may have been "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", it's now large scale bombing of the country that's deemed responsible for taking an eye out. It makes no sense.

Like you, I don't wish physical harm to Bush and Cheney or to anyone. But there is a difference between vengeance and justice. And if there is justice, these two and their conspirators should be charged with their crimes, tried and if found guilty, owe a massive apology to the American people and the entire world.

Some of the great points you make about wrath and vengeance brought to mind for me the issue of capital punishment more than once. There is where I see our society's vengeance sanctioned by a court system and endorsed by society's members. It just doesn't sit well with me.

Great post. Lots of food for thought. Thank you.

roxanne s. sukhan said...

A timely topic, for sure. I have learned, personally, the hard way, that revenge is a dish best served cold. And yes, we do become the thing we hate, when we let anger possess us, like some evil demon.

I think that anger comes from intolerance, an unwillingness or inability to understand the actions which make us angry. Also, from a failure to accept, and a desire to change the unchangeable.

Nessa said...

I suffer from all seven myself. I'm always reminding myself to get a grip.

Anonymous said...

I cannot disagree more with this post. Vengenance in any manner does no good to anyone or anything.

I'm having a hard time believing what I'm reading in this post and comments. All I can say is before you lash out, as so many people have, President Bush has to deal with Congress and there are 535 of them that in his 8 years were elected to legislate. Are none of them to blame?

It doesn't seem to me either that Obama is off to a real good start. Nominees that don't pay taxes? A Sec. Of Treasury that new about the AIG bonuses? I could go on and on but I'm willing to give him a chance.

But to think that what an Administration has done isn't legal and they should go to trial is justified? I guess it's okay for me to have an extramarital affair while I'm in office. Or to get involved in Whitewater. Or leave a poor woman to drown in a car underneath the Chappaquiddick bridge.

You want someone to blame, blame the American electorate. We have too many that put their head in the sand and don't vote hence all the same fools get put back in office, their palms getting more grease on them and their pockets bulge with more money.

I suppose I should have held this for my blog but oh well. Just the way I am.

Joe said...

I appreciate your thoughts and I have to agree on the part where you pointed out that vengeance is physically or emotionally violent. (emotionally for me..)
However, I still couldn't help but feel this heavy burden if I don't carry out my vengeance. Forgiving is very hard to do, especially when the person has caused you to lose some of your friends.
But yeah, I have learned that hate will only breed more hate and violence. When I thought about it, it is actually pointless to take a revenge on someone. True, you will get the feeling of satisfaction, but in the end, you will end up being hurt even more by the others.

Kaylia Metcalfe said...

You are so right about vengeful anger…. That it doesn’t accomplish anything but more vengeance an anger.

I worry about this idea because it is so cyclical.

Cyclical and devastating.

Jennifer Ann Fox said...

I happened upon your blog because I saw the "Raven" part, I have a Black Labrador named Raven and just popped in the other day to read it. I usually read stitching blogs but this was interesting to read, I'll have to say. I'm not really knowledgable to debate political stuff but I can tell from a view of a survivor of domestic violence that vengence and anger as well as control, is at the base of it and even if you leave the situtation for years, their hatefulness and vengance breeds into other situations. I find the best way to deal with people that want to hurt you is to walk away or stay and confront them in a loving manner. That is really not the easy way out either. This weekend someone did something to me that was very hateful. I just personally feel sorry for people like that because it will eventually make them sick on the inside to carry around such vengence. That's just my opinion though.......interesting blog.

Anuja said...

Hi Raven,
I checked out your blog cos it was on Blogs of note. Love your post on wrath. I particularly identified with the bit that said you become the thing you hate... What a scary thought! Imagine waking up one day and discovering you have become George Bush! Besides ending my love affair with the mirror I'll be the most hated man on earth! Lets all make love not hate.

altonwoods said...

"We become the thing we hate."

rather, we ARE the thing we hate...

We're also the thing's we love about others.

It's a learning opportunity,

It's how we bless our enemies...

There go I.

I did enjoy your blog...