Book 04
Chapter 05
Good temper is about handling anger in the right way.

Next let us talk about how we handle our anger. Sometimes it is right to be angry. Some things ought not to be put up with. The person that gets angry about the right things, with the right people, and in the right way, and for the right amount of time, is someone that should be praised. To handle anger right is to do good and not bad, and that makes it be a virtue like any other. Let us call this virtue 'good-temper'. The vice of excess is bad-temper. The vice of deficiency is stolidness (and we will explain later what we mean by that).

We said before that the virtue will not be exactly in the middle, but rather closer to one of the vices. Here, good-temperedness is closer to the deficiency (i.e. not getting angry enough). There is not that much that makes a good-tempered person get angry. Even when a good-tempered person does get angry, their passions do not overcome them, nor do their passion lead them about. The good-tempered sort is not very revengeful either, but rather they will often let things go. So, being of good temper is very much opposed to being of bad temper (as you can tell by the names we use here). But, of course, people of good temper do sometimes get angry, and since they get angry about few things, we can tell that the things they do get angry about are important things, things worth getting angry about. This is similar to how the magnanimous person rarely steps up to make a claim, but if there is something important, and much honor is at stake, then they do step up; it is likewise with the good tempered person and the important things worth getting angry over.

And what does it mean to be stolid? It generally means a lack of sense or emotion. But here we specifically mean those people that get insulted, and then do nothing. And here they act just like a fool would do. This is a bad thing, and so it is not right to do. To put up with insults to oneself and one's friends is slavish, and it is unbecoming of a free citizen.

People can have a bad temper in different ways. One person may get angry with people they have no business getting angry with. Another may get angry about the wrong things (trifling things, for instance). Yet another may get angry with the right people, and about the right things, but they have zero patience and get angry too quickly (angry at the wrong time), or still others may explode with rage (angry in the wrong amount).

Of these, the quick-tempered get angry too quick, and they also get angry at the wrong things, or with the wrong people, or more than what is right. But the main thing about people with a quick temper is that while they do get angry quick, they calm down quickly also (and that is the best thing about them).

Sulky people are different; they hold their anger in for a long time. Sulky people keep their anger until either they can retaliate (and then they feel relief) or until they digest it within themselves. These people are troublesome both to themselves and to their close friends. Often people do not know what is the problem with such a person; and even if they do know, it is still hard for them to help their sulky friend to get over it.

Finally, there are ill-tempered people. This is the type of person that gets offended over things that no one else does, and then looks to hurt the other person, and they are not satisfied until they do.

Again, good temper is more against excessive anger than it is against not getting angry enough (deficiency). Virtue is about what is rare and hard to do, yet revenge-taking is common, and common things are not hard, so good-temper is more against revenge-taking than letting things go. Also, of the two vices, bad temper is the worse, and bad-tempered people are worse to live with.

It should be clear at this point that this business of being righteous in our anger is not at all easy to do. On the contrary, it is quite easy to go wrong because there are so many different ways to go wrong. Even if we try to think it through, we still find that it is hard to say just what is right when for anything we can think of, we can also think up a scenario where it will be wrong instead. (Compare this with, say, temperance, where we can come to know how many glasses of wine will be too much for us.) The best strategy, then, to avoid falling into vice is to watch out for going too far from the right path. If we go a little bit wrong, then it is not that bad. Sometimes people praise those who are deficient because they happen to do what the good-tempered person does, and so they call them gentle. Other times people then praise those with the vice of excess and call them manly and able to take charge and rule. This should make it obvious that things depend a lot on the specific case at hand, and on how people see things at the time. Well, people are going to put less blame on someone that goes less wrong and more blame on someone that goes more wrong; so let us stick to the middle, and be of good temper.


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