Perhaps Another Civil Responsibility–Keeping Anger to Yourself

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Editor’s Note:

Dr. Greg Yuen is local-born psychiatrist in private practice for over 40 years.  He has also, for as many years, taught free taichi classes in both Honolulu and Kailua.  When he was twelve, the death of his grandmother launched him on a quest for longevity and an answer for a fear of death.  Dr. Yuen blends his training in Western medicine with his experience in Eastern approaches to health.  A license massage therapist, he has explored nutrition and macrobiotics, and has maintained a study and practice of Tibetan buddhism.  He is presently promoting a self-massage technique called do-in to optimize personal healing. His approach to health is holistic and focused on self-health where an individual strives for more responsibility for their own health.  To that end, he produced a program called Natural Success to apply natural principles for health and happiness.



Nurses are being assaulted by patients.  Flight attendants are being assaulted by passengers.  Asians are being assaulted in public.  Just over a year ago rioters stormed the US Capitol in a violent assault.  Isn’t all of this going too far?

I would like to propose a new civil responsibility.  The objective of this new responsibility seeks to reduce the level of anger in our society.  If we reduce our anger, then it will likely reduce the level of violence that we all share in our daily lives. 

Let’s begin with the word “civil”.  It seems like we’ve forgotten the meaning of that word.  At least some of us are certainly not putting that word into action.

“Civil” means “courteous and polite”.  Hardly what we have been seeing these days.  Perhaps some civility is in order in terms of dealing with the consequences of Covid: whether it be with wearing masks or with blaming Covid’s origins.  Can we even be civil about the democratic process and the results of an election? 

The actual primary meaning of “civil”, in the dictionary, is “relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns…”  Thus, the “civil” war was about citizens.  Isn’t it ironic that when we gave up being “civil”, we ended up in a “civil” war.  Pray that this does not happen again.

Now let’s move on to “responsibility”.  The responsibility I am proposing is a radical departure from our usual conceptions of it.  If you do something, you generally think you are responsible for that act.  If someone does something to you, you would usually say that other person is responsible for that act. 

My proposal is that we assume responsibility for all acts done unto us by others.  Why would I suggest something that seems so unjust?  Because it leads to a conclusion that is better for you and everyone else.  It strives to diminish any justified anger for a situation.  



Those of us who would resort to violence because of their anger are not generally the ones who would like to reduce anger in our society.  Trying to get them to be more civil is downright futile.  Therefore, as responsible citizens, those of us who deplore the violence and level of anger in our society need to rise up.  We are the ones who must make the change if any change is going to occur.  We have to be the example for the recalcitrant to follow.  We ourselves also harbor comparatively reduced levels of anger and if we can show them that we can reduce it within ourselves, perhaps this will have rippling effects for others.

In assuming responsibility for another person’s acts upon you, I’m not saying it is your “fault”.  The other person is still the actual perpetrator of that act.  By you assuming responsibility for that act, you give yourself enormous power.  If you are “responsible” for that act, then you can make that act disappear.  Of course, you can’t change history but you can transform the situation to your advantage


When you get angry at someone who has mistreated you, you end up suffering more than the perpetrator.  He’s not suffering while you brood.  Why put yourself in that situation?  You can choose to be responsible because that leaves less room for anger to arise within yourself.  Of course, getting angry at yourself is also out of the equation here.  You take responsibility for your frame of mind as you are really the only one who can tame it.  You take a stand that any lingering anger is more detrimental to you than beneficial.  Your miscreant does not suffer while you smolder with anger.

End of Part 1




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