Recently while browsing through pinterest I came across this image quoting Pope John II and I was immediately frustrated with the sentiment of the quote.
Basically what this quote says to me is that it is better to cry and hold back your feelings than to unleash your anger on someone and validate your own feelings by holding someone accountable. Sometimes the only way to “cleanse the heart” is to release the emotions which are being held back. Sometimes people do horrible things and they deserve to be on the receiving end of anger even if it hurts them.
Growing up I was taught that it is not okay for me to feel angry– especially with authority figures– even when I have a valid reason to feel anger. I was taught to hold back my emotions and bottle them up until it got to a point where my only means of coping was to inflict harm upon my own body. In fact, the desire to hold back my anger was so strong that I’ve had many therapy sessions specifically dedicated to helping me understand that it is okay to feel anger and to release that anger onto others who have caused me distress. Anger is a normal human emotion and just like any other emotion, it demands to be felt. So you can either hold onto the anger and let it poison your mind and make you unhappy, or you can release it and move on.
With that being said, I do think that there are responsible ways to release anger. Telling someone that you are angry or showing them your anger does not need to involved screaming, yelling, cursing, or verbally assaulting someone. Sometimes releasing anger can be as simple as telling someone “you hurt me when you did __________ and because of that you’ve made me feel _______”.
Crying can also be a way to deal with anger on an internal level, but if we never confront the issue and let others know when they have wronged us, how can we expect them to learn from their mistakes? How can we help others improve upon their self-awareness and treatment of others if we never communicate our anger?
To suggest that we should cry instead of releasing anger is not only self-damaging, but also harms others by robbing them of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. In my opinion, one of the greatest injustices of the world is the pervasive tendency of people to hide their emotions rather than expressing them. I believe that we would be happier if we were better able to express our emotions –no matter if they are negative or positive.
Emotions will be felt whether we communicate them or not. We cannot ignore them, at least not without putting ourselves at risk for mental health consequences such as the self-harm and eating disorder which I have struggled with for years. We as a society need to teach children how to communicate their emotions in a healthy and effective manner so that when they grow up they are not afraid to express those emotions.
Anger should not be internalized or ignored. Anger should be expressed healthily just as we would express happiness or sadness. For this reason, I have to disagree with the words of Pope John II.