If you are filled with anger, you create more suffering for yourself than for the other person…
If you are filled with anger,
you create more suffering for yourself
than for the other person…
So you try to bring peace into yourself first.
When you are calm, when you are lucid,
you’ll see that the other person
is a victim of confusion, of hate,
of violence transmitted by society,
by parents, by friends, by the environment.
When you are able to see that,
your anger is no longer there.
THICH NHAT HANH
Buddha said, “holding onto anger is like holding onto a hot cinder, you are the one who gets burned.”
Easy to say. Easy to understand. Very difficult to practice. Why is that?
On an objective basis, it is really clear as to why this must be so. Every waking moment that a bad thought circulates in your being is another moment of your life that might have been spent in a joyous frame of mind, which (by your choice to stay angry) has been eradicated irrevocably.
I think that it takes enough trips around the sun before we really start to recognize how finite and precious our lives really are. This realization gives way to a deeper understanding of what it means to let any single one of them waste in the unnecessary mindset of pointless anger that has zero possibility of resolution.
But when we are angry, we are angry, so how is it possible to just let go of the anger? I think there are numerous ways of doing this, but the fastest way for me to get to that place of internal resolution (even if it is temporary) is by starting with the premise that every moment I continue to be angry, is another (victory) for them. If whatever they did was intentional, my anger simply rewards it and simultaneously detracts from my life.
At first blush, this appears so obvious and so simple to implement, why then is it very high-level work to make this transition in our minds?
I do not read the Bible, but I’ve heard enough of it to find this passage…
He says: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
With all of the instruction and guidance in place, what propagates the continuous anger? I believe it stems from people feeling that they have been wronged and therefore, they seek vengeance and/or vindication.
People might choose to lay the blame for these feelings of vengeance upon Hollywood. But, vindication has been in place for millennia and longer (long before Charles Bronson, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson movies). I think it is part of the human species and because we have a sense of self, we are more prone to feel a personal sense of righteousness that propels us into these actions. Regardless of whether or not they solve our problems, I think our animal instincts support the need and desire to feel this way out of a perceived self preservation. (If they have wronged me, I must avenge the wrongdoing, or my life will never be whole again.)
If these thoughts are hardcoded, metaphorically speaking, into our DNA, what allows us to suppress those feelings categorically and enable a more mature and viable response?
It seems to me that the answer to that question is an understanding of the bigger lesson. The knowledge that if we are to continue down the negative resolution, we are leveraging priceless moments of our life on an expenditure that has minimal, if any, possibility of paying dividends. If you take the emotion out of the equation, and look at it strictly as a math problem, you discover that the energy expenditure on something that is useless has zero gain in your asset library. We would never put our hard earned money into a stock that has zero potential of increasing in value and which pays zero dividends. At that stage, it becomes clear that the investment is just wasting precious capital on something that is going nowhere.
When we are younger and learning a sport, there is inevitably the moment when we fall and get hurt. If the injury is nominal, the coach advises us to shake it off and walk around until we feel better again. Even if somebody has intentionally pushed you down on the field, you are not, in most cases, programmed to seek vengeance. You might have a small feeling of this in your heart, but good sportsmanship precludes your desire to act on it. In this situation, your aspiration towards being a good sportsperson overrides your inner desire to deliver equal or worse to the person who did this to you.
How then, is it possible to override those feelings at that moment, but when it happens off of the field, we find ourselves more inclined to give in to those self-righteous feelings that seek to repay the unkindness?
Good sportsmanship is a prescribed and pre-requisite understanding and practice that is scrutinized by others in a public circumstance. Our desire to fit in and be accepted allows us a chance to swallow our pride and behave as it is expected of us under these circumstances. (Except in the NHL or MMA events).
Recognizing this quality in ourselves, under a moment of public stress, facilitates our ability to adopt a similar behavior under other life circumstances. If you know that you can control your anger, you are empowered.
Life being what it is, people will inevitably wrong you over the course of your lifetime. Therefore becomes incumbent upon all of us to see the investment in vindication as being a fool‘s folly. This is not to say that becoming complacent and allowing those trespasses of our being to take place is wise. To the contrary, I think it is mandatory to stand up for everything that we believe in. But, if someone succeeds in wronging you, you have an option as to how large of an expenditure of your time you will invest in settling the score. Recognizing that the score will never settle, regardless of your actions, is the first step towards growing past this behavior. Easier as Thich says to see the person as being a victim of confusion, of hate, of violence transmitted by society, by parents, by friends or the environment. When you can really see them as the weak victim, your ability to be mature and release your anger increases exponentially.