On the Control of Anger (PLUTARCH)

On the Control of Anger (PLUTARCH)

But we should, as Panaetius also has somewhere remarked, make use of the precept of Anaxagoras, and just as he, at the death of his son, said, “I knew that I had begotten a mortal”; so on each occasion we should remark with reference to the faults which exasperate us: “I knew that I had not bought a philosopher for a slave,” “I knew that the friend I had made was not incapable of error,” “I knew that my wife was a woman.” And if we keep repeating to ourselves Plato’s question, “Can it be that I am like that?” and turn our reason inward instead of to external things, and substitute caution for censoriousness, we shall no longer make much use of “righteous indignation” toward others when we observe that we ourselves stand in need of much indulgence. But as it is, everyone of us, when we are angry and inflicting punishment, brings out the injunctions of an Aristeides or a Cato: “Do not steal!” “Do not lie!” “Why are you so lazy?”; and — what is most disgraceful of all — while angry we chide others for being angry and punish by rage faults which have been committed in a rage, not like physicians, who “With bitter drugs can purge the bitter bile”; but rather make more intense the malady and aggravate it. Whenever, therefore, I have become engaged in these reflections, at the same time I try to do away with some part of my inquisitiveness. For to search out with great precision and detect and drag into the light every little concern of a slave, every action of a friend, every pastime of a son, every whisper of a wife, produces frequent, or rather continual and daily, fits of anger, of which the sum total is a morose and intractable disposition. It may be, as Euripides says, that God “Will intervene in matters grown too great”, But small things he lets pass and leaves to Fate; but I am of the opinion that a man of sense should commit nothing to Fate, nor overlook anything at all, but should trust and use for some things his wife, for others servants, for others friends, Bas a ruler makes use of overseers and accountants and administrators, but himself keeps under his own control the most important and weighty matters by the use of reason. For as small writing strains the eyes, so do trifling matters, by causing a greater strain, prick and stir up anger,129 which become a bad habit that affects more important matters.

Accordingly, in addition to all these considerations, I have been wont to regard as great and divine that saying of Empedocles, “Fast from evil”.

 

 

 

 

Plutarch’s Morals
Plutarch



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