By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)
Too often we’re made to think that anger is a negative emotion, one we should avoid because it’s weak or shows a lack of self-control.
You can see it in The Avengers in the way Dr. Bruce Banner is treated. His character is a personification of anger. If Banner gets angry, he turns into a giant green monster capable of breaking an entire city.
When we first meet Banner in The Avengers, he’s working as a doctor in the slums of Calcutta. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff tricks him into coming to a deserted hut on the edge of the city. The hut is secretly surrounded by snipers just in case Banner loses control.
Banner ducks inside, and she steps out of the shadows.
“For a man who’s supposed to be avoiding stress,” she says, “you picked a hell of a place to settle.”
Banner turns around. “Avoiding stress isn’t the secret.”
“What’s the secret then?”
Banner doesn’t tell her how he’s managed to go a year without turning into the Hulk, and throughout the movie, that becomes the question.
The others either tiptoe around him, try to provoke him to expose his “secret,” or they take protective measures in case he does get angry. (Measures that include a giant cage that will drop him from the sky.)
We treat anger the same way in our lives. We block it off, pretend we aren’t angry when we are, or try to learn techniques and tricks to keep from getting angry.
But the secret isn’t to keep from becoming angry.
At the end of the movie, the Avengers line up to fight the alien army set to invade earth.
“Dr. Banner,” Captain America says, “now might be a really good time for you to get angry.”
Banner strides toward the aliens. “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”
Everyone thought that Banner had discovered some way to keep from getting angry and that was how he prevented himself from becoming the Hulk.
The truth was he hadn’t purged his anger. He’d learned how to control it. By the end of the movie, he’d even learned how to harness it and redirect it for good.
Feeling angry isn’t wrong. Anger is merely an emotion. Sometimes it can even be healthy if we’re angry over injustice or true evil. And denying it or hiding it won’t make it go away.
Do we allow our anger to hurt and destroy? Or do we channel it into righting wrongs?
It’s the difference between a father who goes out and murders the drunk driver who killed his only daughter and a father who finds a way to bring about stricter punishments for drunk drivers and establishes a safe ride program in his town. Both were justified in their anger. But one used it for evil while the other used it for good.
It’s the difference between saying something cruel back to a person who’s hurt our feelings and using that anger to remind us how not to treat other people.
It’s the difference between screaming at our spouse because we feel like they never help us around the house and letting that anger be our cue that it’s time to have a painfully honest talk about weaknesses in the marriage that we need to work on.
What do you think? Is it alright to get angry? Or should we work on trying to purge ourselves of anger?
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