Editor's note: Does anger serve us well or hinder us? As you read these quotes from a wide variety of perspectives, you will see that the answer depends on the context. There is anger that separates, yet anger also can break down barriers. There is anger that hardens our hearts, yet anger can open us to life's fullness. We offer you this palette so that you can respect this intriguing range in yourself and others.
Acknowledged with a Smile
"You don't have to chase anger out of you. You allow it to be in you, you embrace it tenderly, and then anger will subside, and the danger is overcome. During the practice you have helped anger, and it will be transformed slowly. This practice enables you to acknowledge your anger with a smile."
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Transforming Your Anger
The Basis of Whining
"I have heard it said that whining is anger coming out through a very small opening."
— James Finley in The Contemplative Heart
A Beautiful Emotion
"Anger is also a beautiful emotion. It's the emotion of self-care, of self-protection. It is the emotion by which we make ourselves known to others as worthy, valuable human beings. Anger is the way we tell other people that they've gone too far, that they've crossed the invisible boundary they shouldn't have crossed if they want to remain in our good graces."
— Daphne Rose Kingmsa in Loving Yourself
A Beginning with an End
"Whatever is begun in anger,
ends in shame."
— Benjamin Franklin in The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace by Jack Kornfield
"Relationship rage is at an all-time high. Maybe it's just that there are more of us on the planet. All I know is this: Rage is completely painful. Screaming, pushing, shoving, sulking, manipulating, emotional blackmailing, silently smoldering, watching for ways to get even. All rage. And uncontrollable: You never know where it will aim itself."
— Geri Larkin in Love Dharma
Curbed by Prayer and Ceremony in the Home
"The Hasidic family points us in a good direction. The sanctification of our households through prayer, custom, and ceremonies of tenderness works to curb anger. Of course, for those who live ritually prescribed lives, sanctification is meant to come with the territory. That does not mean, however, that the rest of us cannot keep some version of a kosher home, or what Christians might call a sacramental home. ...
"The effort to sanctify our household leads us to the recognition that our worst enemies are often within us, just as our worst behaviors can appear within the safe precincts of our homes. The beam that Jesus tells us to take from our own eye before attempting to remove a splinter from our brother's can amount to a beam in our domestic architecture. Clarity, like charity, begins at home."
— Garret Keizer in The Enigma of Anger
A Destructive Force
"Resentment is one of the most destructive forces in our lives. It is cold anger that has settled into the center of our being and hardened our hearts. Resentment can become a way of life that so pervades our words and actions that we no longer recognize it as such."
— Henri J. M. Nouwen in With Burning Hearts
"Even a single moment of anger
Destroys years of kindness to others."
— Shantideva in The Tibetan Book of Yoga by Geshe Michael Roach
An Emotion That Separates
"Anger is the emotion that separates. It cuts everything right in two."
— Charlotte Joko Beck in Nothing Special
"My anger has often seemed out of proportion — that is, too great or too little, but more often too great — for the occasion that gave rise to it.
"My anger has more often distressed those I love and who love me than it has afflicted those at whom I was angry.
"My anger has not carried me far enough toward changing what legitimately enrages me. In fact, the anger often saps the conviction."
— Garret Keizer in The Enigma of Anger
"An angry word is like a hand grenade thrown into the temple of love."
— Arthur Samuels in Zen and the Art of Intimacy
"Look at someone who is angry. When you see the tension in her, you become frightened, because the bomb in her may explode any minute."
—Thich Nhat Hanh in Taming The Tiger Within
Fueled by a Nagging Sense of Discontent
"A nagging sense of discontent, a feeling of being dissatisfied, or of something being not right, is the fuel that gives rise to anger and hatred. This discontent arises in us when we feel that either we ourselves, or someone we love, or our close friends are being treated unfairly or threatened and that people are being unjust."
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama in The Path to Tranquility
Healed by Compassion
"Nothing can heal anger except compassion."
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Taming the Tiger Within
An Instant Loss
"There is an old Turkish saying: 'The one who gets up with anger sits down with loss.' Anger brings instant loss; instead of rationalizing it, we have to learn to control our temper."
— Robert Frager in Heart, Self, and Soul
Its Own Karma
"We are not punished for our anger; we are punished by our anger. In other words, anger is its own karma."
— Eknath Easwaran in The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living, Volume 3
Like the Power of a Dammed River
"My anger was my will to live turned inside out. My life force was just as intense, just as powerful as my anger, but for the first time I could experience it as different and feel it directly. In that first moment of surprise, I had a glimpse of something fundamental about who I am; that at the core of things I have an intense love of life, a wish to participate fully in life and to help others do the same. Somehow this had grown large in me as a result of the very limitations that I had thought were thwarting it. Like the power of a dammed river. I had not known this before. I also knew that in its present form, as rage, this power was trapped. My anger had helped me survive, to resist my disease, even to fight on, but in the form of anger I could not use my strength to build the kind of life I longed to live. And then I knew with absolute certainty that my pain was nobody's fault; that the world was not to blame for it. It was a moment of real freedom."
— Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom
Like Striking with a Knife
"An angry word is like striking with a knife."
— Hopi Saying Jeffrey Moses in Oneness
Like a Weed Choking a Field
"Anger corrupts, as weeds choke a field.
Be free of anger, and honor
those who are also free."
— The Buddha in Buddhist Wisdom: Daily Reflections by David Crosweller
Overcome by Awareness of Our Own Faults
"A powerful method for overcoming anger and the wish to retaliate is to see all undesirable situations as a reflection of our own faults and shortcomings."
— Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in How to Solve Our Human Problems
Possible to Tame
"Strength lies not in carrying heavy loads: a crane can do that.
Strength's essence is found in taming your temper and anger."
— The Prophet Muhammad in Essential Sufism by James Fadiman, editor and Robert Frager, editor
"Whoever restrains his anger when he has the power to show it,
God will give him a great reward."
— The Prophet Muhammad in The Knowing Heart by Kabir Helminski
Possible to Transform
"With an emotion like anger, sustaining our attention can bring us another crucial insight: if we can stay with the anger long enough, we will see it change into something else — hurt, sadness, some other feeling — or even dissolve. What had seemed so solid breaks down, is transformed. The key lies in staying with the experience through all its changes."
— Tara Bennett-Goleman in Emotional Alchemy
"An angry man is allowing power to rise against him and enslave him, but when he learns to control these tremendous sources of power, he can use them to meet the most formidable challenges of the day and to make his greatest contribution to those around him."
— Eknath Easwaran in The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living: Volume 1
"I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world."
— Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi the Man by Eknath Easwaran
"Anger . . . can become one of our juiciest ingredients. If we have a tendency toward anger, we don't try to deny it or block it out. But we don't observe or analyze it either. We let our anger arise, so that we can feel anger fully. We sit with the anger. We become anger. When we do that we can see what anger is all about. Then anger will transform of itself — into determination, for example."
— Bernard Glassman and Rick Fields in Instructions to the Cook
Protection from Tolerating the Intolerable
"Anger is what keeps us from tolerating the intolerable."
— William Sloane Coffin in The Psalms
Seductive in Nature
"In all forms of aversion the heart contracts. We then become imprisoned by our own mind's reactions and subsequently solidify a sense of self and separation. But there is also something extremely seductive about anger that keeps pulling us in and feeding it. The Buddha described it well when he said, 'Anger, with its poisoned root and honeyed tip.' We feel empowered, energetic and often self-righteous when we're lost in angry feelings."
— Joseph Goldstein in One Dharma
Stirring the Juices of Our Souls
"Anger stirs the juices of our souls to the point of white heat. We take upon ourselves the righteousness of God and never manage, despite it, to order the universe to our own ends."
— Joan Chittister in There Is A Season
Stopped by "Eating the Blame"
"When we realize we've made mistakes at the abbey, we apologize quickly and openly and then make amends as best we can. In fact, even if we aren't the one who made the mistake we make amends. It's called 'eating the blame.' This practice stops anger quickly because the emotion isn't given a chance to fester. Instead, its source is transformed."
— Geri Larkin in The Still Point Dhammapada
Susceptible to Intense Surrender
Anger arises because of external disturbances, and soon it subsides back into your mind again. If you intensely surrender the anger before it settles back, it will melt away just as much as you have surrendered.
— Jae Woong Kim in Polishing the Diamond, Enlightening the Mind
Transformed into Refined Energy
"A tremendous backlog of energy can be locked up in anger and resentment that we can visualize it as a Hoover Dam right inside, blocking our energy flow on every level from the physical to the spiritual. The most effective way I know to channel the enormous power of anger is to turn it around, turn it into mercy, by pouring it into the peaceful resolution of problems that threaten to erupt in violence between individuals and communities and nations. Working for the sake of all releases a virtual flood of energy into our lives."
— Eknath Easwaran in Original Goodness
Trying to Tell Me Something
"My anger is trying to tell me something. Anger always carries information, but its message is seldom immediately clear. Befriending anger includes finding ways to retrieve this message."
— James D. Whitehead, Evelyn E. Whitehead in Shadows of the Heart
A Victim State
"Anger is not power: it is a victim state. When I indulge my anger, I risk damaging myself and destroying a relationship."
— Hugh Prather in Standing on My Head