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Anger begets anger - or kindness, take your pick

"Anyone can become angry, that is so easy. But to become angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not so easy." - Aristotle

Anger. We've all felt the hot, fury-filled boiling of the blood that anger sends coursing through our veins. Everyone knows what it's like to be overcome by the adrenalin surge that accompanies a good ire. In some ways it makes us aware of being alive.

On occasion, I get angry; but I'm not very good at it. Oh, I can stir up the heat of my temper as good as anyone, but I have trouble prolonging my angst. My fire ignites quickly, but fades to cinders just as fast. No matter how much I endeavor to feed it, I can't seem to maintain the scorching, emotional focus that a consuming anger requires.

This is probably because I've never been good at endurance sports.

Being angry - really, really angry - is like a good workout. It takes a whole lot of energy to stay mad. At the end of the day, I guess I am just a lazy person. Lazy people don't have the wherewithal to expend the effort it takes to stay irate. I'd rather use my energy reading a book, talking on the phone or even (gulp) exercising. I do not want to practice being angry. It's tiring; plus, it gives me a headache.

Anger comes from different sources. Sometimes, an event beyond our control thrusts anger upon us. When the phone rings at 3 a.m., only to be a wrong number, or when a motorist cuts you off in traffic, your immediate response is anger. It's difficult to turn the other cheek when what you really want to do is flip up a finger - preferably a middle one - in salute to the idiot in the other car.

This type of anger is usually short-lived - caused by one unfortunate moment. Without fuel from another source of frustration it dissipates. You'll return to bed - toss and turn for a few minutes - wondering why people who make phone calls in the middle of the night don't double check their numbers for accuracy. Then, if you are like the majority of people, you will fall asleep and the incident will be over.

For some, however, the wrong number will not fade into dreamland. These anger professionals are in tune and adept at maintaining their negativity through sun, rain, snow, sleet and sleep.

We all know one or two marathon anger champions. I figure it's taken them years and years of anger conditioning to get to the point where anything and everything can create an ire so palpable it drives people away. Angry people are talented in this area.

Anger brings with it many benefits. Angry people never have to be flexible. They have no need for cooperation because they are always on the right side of right. They know the answers before anyone asks the questions and they are, most assuredly, sure when you make a mistake. They know that errors should never go unnoticed, and a misunderstanding is better defined as something the other guy did wrong. Angry people blame first and ask questions later.

When you meet up with an angry person, it is easy to catch the anger buzz. Anger begets anger.

Besides, angry people deserve our wrath. They practically ask for it - with their negative attitude and all. Being angry at an angry person feels so right - at first. Your heart pounds, blood pressure rises and adrenalin rushes. The physiological responses are not unlike those you get when falling in love; that can be exciting.

But it's a false sense of excitement. Anger may send adrenalin surging through our veins, much like it does when we begin a new relationship, but the comparison ends there. Anger does nothing to foster relationships. It does the very opposite. Which, I think, is probably the point.

I am a believer in the underlying goodness of people. Anger is a choice, but I don't think it's one many people make on purpose. Angry people didn't start out that way. Their skills come from years of practice and most likely began with a broken relationship, broken promise, broken heart or something even worse - and rolled downhill from there.

So, at the very moment when it feels like we should yell, scream or fight with an angry person, the thing needed to cure the anger is quite different. Anger not fuelled by more anger typically dissipates. Anger confronted with kindness doesn't know what to do. In fact, kindness, distributed over time, may actually cure anger! I'm no doctor, but you read it here first.

Angry people may come across as hard and crusty, but inside each one lives a cupcake - soft, sweet and surrounded by frosting. Trouble is, most of them have forgotten this. It's going to take someone to remind them.

How about it, you up for a challenge?

Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award-winning freelance writer. She appreciates your comments and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or you can check out her Web site at