Is It Anger or Abuse?

In the heat of the moment, it can be sometimes difficult to tell the difference between true anger and abuse. This handy checklist can help.

True anger is always mindful.
Abuse is ego-driven and caught in mindsets.

True anger is a form of assertiveness that shows respect.
Abuse is aggressive, an attack.

True anger shows tough love that enriches or repairs the relationship.
Abuse explodes in rough or damaging mistreatment that endangers the relationship.

True anger arises from displeasure at an injustice.
Abuse arises from the sense of an affront to a bruised, indignant ego.

True anger focuses on the injustice as intolerable but reparable.
Abuse focuses on the other person as bad.

True anger aims at a deeper and more effective bond; an angry person moves toward the other.
Abuse wants to get the rage out no matter who gets hurt: an abuser moves against the other.

True anger coexists with and empowers love: fearless.
Abuse cancels love in favor of fear: fear-based.

True anger is nonviolent, in control, and always remains within safe limits.
Abuse is violent, out of control, derisive, punitive, hostile, and retaliatory.

True anger includes grief and acknowledges this.
Abuse includes grief but masks it with feigned invulnerability or denial.

True anger believes the other is a catalyst of anger.
Abuse believes the other is a cause of anger.

True anger treats the other as a peer.
Abuse treats the other as a target.

True anger is a form of addressing, processing, and resolving.
Abuse is a form of avoiding oneís own grief and distress.

Adapted from How to Be An Adult in Relationships, by David Richo (Shambhala, 2002). Copyright (c) 2002 by David Richo. Reprinted by permission of Shambhala.
Adapted from How to Be An Adult in Relationships, by David Richo (Shambhala, 2002).


Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga4 years ago


Tim C.
Tim C4 years ago


Marcel Elschot
Marcel Elschot4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Laura Saxon
.4 years ago

Great article. Thanks for sharing.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Interesting article

yap eunie
yap e4 years ago

yes.. i always know... its an abuse.. just that it is not physical..

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

Aud Nordby
Aud n4 years ago

thank you for sharing!

Veerle D.
Veerle D4 years ago

Interesting list and differentiation. As it is sometime said : abused people often become abusers themselves, triggered by the anger the abuse creates within them.
If you keep in mind your anger should be mindful, respectful and constructive, and used to fight injustice (for everyone, not only yourself) then the circle is broken.