Aggression vs. Violence

In our country today, there seems to be some odd sanction against aggression.  I’ve seen it my entire life in one way shape or form.  It’s always the guy who gets loudest in the argument who gets into trouble.  Or it’s the person who wins the fight they didn’t start whose labeled as the violent or cruel one.

Hell, look at the lack of standing up against a bully in this day and age.  How many kids have killed themselves form being bullied?

Honestly, I think aggression is sanctioned because I feel that most people in this day and age have forgotten the difference between aggression and violence.

This is what I learned the definition of aggression to be:

Aggression:  overt and often times harmful actions taken toward another person FOR A REASON.

And this is what I learned the definition of violence to be:

Violence:  overt and harmful actions taken toward another person FOR THE SAKE OF IT.  Another way I like to describe it is:  IMPLACABLE AGGRESSION!

Now I’m sure there are people sharpening pitch forks, and getting the stake ready to burn me for saying this, so to avoid that I’m going to land my plane here.

Aggression has served a purpose for every creature on this planet since the dawn of time.  It’s how we’ve defended out territory, protected our young, made sure we were the ones spreading our seed out into the world.  Once the threat to what we wanted had faded away, so does our aggression because it’s purpose has been served.

Violence on the other hand, is aggression done for the sake of aggression, often times just to inflict pain.

In college, I took a class on Animal Communication.  In this class they spoke of zoologists studying chimps who saw something truly gruesome.

A group of five male chimpanzees chased another male out of their territory when he had crossed their boundary.  (Aggression)  They then chased him for almost five miles outside of their territory, caught him, beat him to death, and cannibalized him. (Violence)

See the difference?

The only reason I bring this up is because that fine line in human nature between aggression and violence, is also something crucial to understand when writing your characters.  It goes back to that balance thing I keep talking about.

No one’s entirely good, nor bad, just a mix with one of the two being predominant.  It’s all a shade of grey.

You need to understand this to not only write your characters properly by making them realistic, but I always thought that line between aggression and violence was fun to dance with in writing.  After all, the moment someone crosses the line between aggression and violence says so much about their mental, emotional and spiritual state that words just cannot convey.

Either way, I feel that this understanding, or should I say misunderstanding, is holding a lot of authors back.  I think being out of sync with their own aggressive nature seriously hampers their ability to write a fully fledged character.  This doesn’t only apply in the world of action adventure type novels.  If a person truly is aggressive, than their aggression will even leak into the softer sides of their emotions.

If you have a protagonist who is a bit of a bad-ass, you need to find a way to carry that quality into everything they say/do.  No one changes their personality based on what they’re doing.  Even if they’re being tender, they’re still going to be aggressive while doing it.


Because that’s the way they are.

You need to decide who your characters are first to write your novel correct?  Well, now you have to be able to understand them as well.

So I give this last piece of advice.  If you’re thinking of writing a story out of your wheelhouse, and you can’t relate to the emotions your characters will have in that novel, then don’t write it.  Come back to it when your understanding of things has deepened.

It won’t sound or feel right to you, and by extension the audience.  Make sure to understand every aspect of your nature, because remember, even the misfits are still human.

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m nuts?  Whatever you think, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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Featured Image in Public Domain.


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