Anger can be a powerful feeling.
Not just “a little put out” kind of anger, but deep, passionate, blood-boiling, seeing-red, beyond rational thought kind of anger.
The kind of anger that easily leads to an explosion of violence. As if the anger has a will of its own which simply cannot be contained any more.
Restraint can also be a powerful feeling. To look into the eye of your own seething wrath and refuse to let it control you. To show your enemies that you are in control – but ready to unleash hell with a single command.
Consider this scene from Henry V where Exeter – the real power behind the throne – threatens the King of France with war if he refuses to concede England’s authority.
Therefore in fierce tempest is he coming,
In thunder and in earthquake, like a Jove,
That, if requiring fail, he will compel;
And bids you, in the bowels of the Lord,
Deliver up the crown, and to take mercy
On the poor souls for whom this hungry war
Opens his vasty jaws; and on your head
Turning the widows’ tears, the orphans’ cries
The dead men’s blood, the pining maidens groans,
For husbands, fathers and betrothed lovers,
That shall be swallow’d in this controversy.
Strong words, spoken with power, but with restraint.
Of course England and France still go to war.
But here’s the real question: is love as powerful as anger?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly thought so. As he said in 1967:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
As a society we often think of anger as power, of violence as power. Love may be desirable, but collectively we can’t seem to shake the feeling that love is soft. Love is weak.
Those who would dare confront anger with love will soon be eradicated, so little is their power.
But is it possible, is it, that if we really embraced love. Embraced it with a blood-boiling, seeing-red passion.
Is it possible that we’d find it more powerful after all?