“You get so furious with them that you wind up climbing onto your high moral horse so you can ride them under the hooves of your righteous fury. But when you close your knight errant’s helmet, the visibility through that visor is just a little limited, isn’t it?”
– Lady Emily Alexander, War of Honor
Honor Harrington series, by David Weber
I seem to have a lot of favorite characters in this series, and there are a lot of great moments for them to shine. Among those many moments are times where humility is brought forth as the shining virtue it is, along with self-control. The exact circumstance of this quote involve Emily advising her husband as he tries to deal with the ramifications of his political enemies’ underhanded, shortsighted, dirty-minded tactics. He’s a military man, accustomed to tactics, strategy, and logistics, so he seems unable to wrestle with the malicious, prideful stupidity of it all with any degree of success. Actually, as his wife points out, it’s simply because his well-justified anger towards them gets the better of him, and his fury limits his perspective, so he can’t function as well as he usually does.
I find that particular observation particularly relevant these days. Everywhere you look, it seems, people are clashing over every possible subject, great and small. Every one of us seems to think that we hold the absolute moral high ground, and so anyone who’s not actively standing exactly where we are must be somehow immoral. Yet even when that’s true – which, it isn’t always – our anger, our righteous fury, seems only to limit us. Severely.
Take, for instance, when the nephew I am helping to raise does something which violates our rules and puts himself at greater risk of some sort of harm. I get angry, yes, as does his mother. But we try – we do not always succeed, but we try – to communicate with him, and help him, instead of simply punishing him. If we simply blew our tops at him, we wouldn’t be able to listen to him, which means we’d be unable to help him as well as we otherwise could.
Anger, even well-founded, blocks the path of communication and understanding. Righteous fury clouds our eyes, makes it so we can’t see another person’s perspective. Holy wrath focuses our vision on our target, yet we lose sight of what’s around us.
Hatred blinds us.
That’s what happens when my nephew gets so angry that he stops listening to us, or when we get so angry that we stop listening to him. That’s what happens when we shut down opinions and perspectives that disagree with our own, resorting to shouting, screaming, insults, etc. That’s what happens when we let our tempers rule us, and stand on our own moral superiority. That’s what happens when we judge.
Even if any of it is for very good reason, which is another question entirely.