The difference between anger and conviction

I was going to write tonight about the Jedi and the similarities to religion and philosophy. It was going to be this rather relaxed self-discussion about its merits and applications.

Instead, tonight there was an incident which has been described as me having an outburst.

“Did you hear about the guy who got sent down for beating up this pedo who was going to meet up with his little girl?” – X

“No, but that sucks. Unfortunately the way the law works though and how the police will see it is that they can’t prosecute a crime yet to be committed.” – Z

“Well I just fucking hope you don’t have a daughter!” – X

“No, that’s enough. That’s statement’s wrong and I’m drawing a line, I’m not having that.” – Z

“[mumbles and pulling of faces, lots of expletives]” – X

“With statements like that, if I did, I’m not sure I’d want you to meet her.” – Z

In this situation, I am Z. In the moment, I didn’t feel anger nor did I feel any particular sense of imminent danger towards a hypothetical daughter. I didn’t even raise my voice to the man who himself has no biological children. My statements were holding true to a personal integrity, to a sense of conviction. If I did have a daughter, would I expose her to that sort of angry attitude? Sure enough the topic of conversation was an ethical dilemma and I can’t fault X for being protective of children. Yet I felt compelled to defend my personal conviction that the truth of a situation – being the statement I gave about the law – should not be met with blind anger and strawman arguments. This is to say the child abuser in this headline of a story wasn’t investigated and faced justice. I’ll never know, this is one of those “did you hear about …” Facebook news verbal repost.

Those who might accuse me of being cold in this position, may never have seen the film Minority Report which goes into why that sort of rationale is very slippery slope. I’m not defending the persons involved in the story, I expressed my genuine empathy for the situation. While I’m sure cases like this do exist, to be honest I wasn’t going to find myself too invested in a vague soundbite from an unreliable narrator.

X stormed off and Y (another party in this situation) accused me of being unnecessary and disrespectful, all the while X shouted incoherently from the other room. She said this was an outburst and I had caused drama. The latter half of that was true as X turned on Y for not defending him and Y said she did and it all erupted into a screaming match. While it wasn’t the preferable outcome and I empathize for Y’s situation that I have now put her in, I’m secure in what I said.

I think that’s a key issue however with perception of emotion rather than genuine emotion felt. In that moment, I treated X like he was a unruly student who needed a firm line – with some personal flavour at the end, granted. With personal integrity and conviction with good without flicker of malice intent being the only true measure to ones own virtue, in defending such a position I don’t think it can be considered as a show of anger. Yet the optics told a different story. It’s another lesson for me on clarity of communication.

Marcus Aurelius said:

“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself

By all accounts I failed this particular teaching. Yet, what’s the point of integrity if it’s not upheld? It was Epictetus who said:

“Whenever externals are more important to you than your own integrity, then be prepared to serve them the remainder of your life”

What is integrity but conviction upheld? What is anger but an admission of fractured integrity?



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