Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

Wake up; clean up; eat breakfast; discover some kind of racist injustice that has happened; feel sad; cheer up; study and work; go to bed; Repeat.

My days are particularly monotonous. However, for the past two weeks, while preparing for the day, I’ve found myself listening to the same Donnie McClurkin hits. Classics such as Great is your Mercy, Stand, Create in Me a Clean Heart, and most recently, I’ll Trust You repeatedly blast through my phone as I brush my teeth, shower, and get dressed. As mundane as my mornings appear, the beauty of repetition in music lies in the finding of new meaning in old lyrics for present situations.


What if it hurts? What if you cry?

What if it doesn’t work the first time that you try?

What if you call my name, and don’t feel Me near?

Will you still believe in me or will you fear?

These questions posed in I’ll Trust You were particularly relevant for me this past week. Upon hearing of the domestic terrorist attack in Charlottesville at UVA, while “a bit” disappointed, I found that I continued about my day as if this news was just another part of my humdrum morning ritual. Seeing some of the heartless, and provocative responses of various political pundits and authority figures neither shocked nor stirred me. I was disappointed, frustrated, drained: hopeless.

The frustration–aggression hypothesis attempts to explain why people scapegoat. It attempts to give an explanation as to the cause of violence. The theory, developed by John Dollard and colleagues, says that frustration causes aggression, but when the source of the frustration cannot be challenged, the aggression gets displaced onto an innocent target.

This theory has some problems. First, there is little empirical support for it, even though researchers have studied it for more than sixty years. Another issue is that this theory suggests frustrated, prejudiced individuals should act more aggressively towards outgroups they are prejudiced against, but studies have shown that they are more aggressive towards everyone. The theory also has limitations, for example it cannot say why some outgroups are chosen to be scapegoats and why others are not. [see wikipedia].

Being Black in America, it is not difficult to lose hope. It is like chapstick or lose change in the pocket. But, the consequences of such a loss?  How devastating it is to be hopeless! We become hopeless about crucial and life-altering situations in which we have little to no control.  Why is it always us? No answer. Even more hopeless now. We become, and remain hopeless as we fight an uphill battle amidst an avalanche in front of us, composed of poverty, injustice, racism, inequity, and the like.

However, what we often forget during this constant warfare is that it is not just the challenges that are in front of us as a people, but also what is, rather what is not, inside of us that can destroy us.

Hopelessness is dangerous and destructive. Hopelessness is associated with hypertension and cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, suicide, violence and aggression, substance abuse, and many other debilitating difficulties. It will literally obliterate your mind and body from the inside.

So what can we do to regain hope? And when we have hope, how do we maintain it to keep from being hopeless?

  • First, go back to your muse(s). Who/What was the source of your inspiration? For me, the past several mornings, listening to Donnie classics reminded me of my motivation: The love of God and His constant presence. It was reassuring. God has never left me. He takes no days off, no vacations, no lunch or bathroom breaks, nothing. He is always right there with me. His constant presence and His love is worth fighting/standing/sitting/kneeling for. Our cause is a righteous one. What was it that inspired you to fight the good fight? Is not the prize worth the punches?


  • Secondly, as we protest and preach against inequality, we must also guard our minds against hate. It is so easy to hate our enemies. Love the human being that persecutes you, but hate the evil principles and beliefs that are held. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” -Ephesians 6:12 KJV

But how do we keep from hating our enemies? It is SO hard.

  • Expect persecution. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in the things you have learned and firmly believed, since you know from whom you learned them.” -2 Timothy 3:12-14 We have to keep fighting for our God given freedom.


  • Just as the verse above says, You will be persecuted. Evil men will go from bad to worse. Continue. They will vote against us. Continue. They will kill our brothers and sisters. Continue. They will lie and cheat. Continue.


  • Finally, keep our minds on God. “You will keep himin perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” –Isaiah 26:3


God promises perfect peace for our minds, IF we trust.  So,

Will you let go? 

Will you stand on My word? 

Against all odds will you believe what I have said?

What seems impossible,Will you believe? 

Every promise that I made will you receive?

Will you trust?


“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33




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