Is Sir Francis Bacon's essay "Of Anger" relevant to the world of the 21st century? 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Sir Francis Bacon wore many hats.  Bacon was a scientist, philosopher, politician, and writer.  He was considered to be one of the great thinkers of his time. Writing in the 16th and 17th centuries, Bacon served the courts of both Elizabeth I and James I. Bacon's essays offer practical advice on moral and social issues.  He published three books of the essays beginning in 1597 and the last in 1625. 

"Of Anger" was published in his last book of essays.  Over the course of his writing the essays, Bacon changed.  The last ones were more harsh and strident.

This essay on anger management still has sage advice. One of his morsels of advice is a famous proverb that certainly holds true:

 Let not the sun go down upon your anger. 

He organizes his essay in three areas:

1. How to calm one's anger

2. How to repress anger and not repay with mischief

3. How to soothe the anger of another person

Typical of his day, he writes for the men. He states:

Anger is certainly a kind of baseness [low morally]; as it appears well in the weakness of those subjects in whom it reigns; children, women, old folks, sick folks.

Wrong as he was, Bacon spoke for prominent social rules of the day.

1st area-

  • To calm anger, Bacon suggests that a man must meditate and think about the effects of the anger and how it will trouble his life. 
  • Look back at the anger after a person has settled down.
  • Anger can only hurt the one who holds the anger inside of him.

2nd area-

  • There are three causes of anger.
  1.  A man may be too sensitive
  2.  A man may allow contempt to build up inside him which makes the anger worse
  3. When a man's reputation is in question, this mulitplies his anger.
  • The remedy for these causes of anger is time and refraining from seeking revenge. 
  • To keep from anger changing to angry deeds, avoid bitter words and reveal no secrets that have been  shared to gain vengeance.

3rd area-

To help another person appease his anger, avoid him when he is at his most incensed.  Look for an appropriate time to talk to him. Try to explain to him that the unjust deed was a misunderstanding, caused by fear or passion.

These suggestions provide wisdom today.  His words are relevant for the 21st century just as they were for the 17th century. 

One of his best tenets to live by speaks truth today:

Be patient. Whosoever is out of patience is out of possession of his soul.

Sources:

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