Anger, G-d and Judaism
By Nachum Mohl
In our world of self help and introspective living, perhaps anger, more than any other element, is the most difficult personality trait to repair. Most people suffer from fits of anger some in rare instantses, others in all too frequent bouts of temper tantraums that all but ruin their lives.
Yet it is in this particular ailment that a person can measure himself to his obligation to give service to his Maker.
Anger is generated by a person's believing a certain action should be done by right or obligation, or conversely that an action, by right or obligation, should not be done. If his perceived right is not honored, it may lead him to anger; or if he believes that a certain act is wrong and is forbidden to be done, when that act is done, it may evolve anger in the man.
However, if he realizes that the same action that he believes to be incorrect is done, but he views the special circumstances that cause it to be done, he will not be angered.
As an example, if a person believes that his car should not be damaged, as most normal persons do believe and he perceives several boys damaging his car for no apparent reason, he is likely to become angry. On the other hand, if he understands that what is happening is that the boys are trying to move his car because rocks from a nearby mountain are rolling in its direction, he probably will not be moved to anger.
The key to anger control is not control. Trying to control anger in effect means that anger still exists, but that you are trying to hold it down. The word anger control or anger management may sound nice and attractive, but there are two serious offsprings that must be addressed. One is that the holding in of anger can and does cause other problems some more serious than others. Ranging from ulcers, high blood pressure, to heart attacks and strokes, keeping anger "in", is not the ideal soloution.
On the other end of the spectrum is the concept of letting your feelings out. This means that if your are angered by someone you should express yourself and indicate that anger is being felt here in this particular situation. The concept here is that anger can be dissipated by speaking it out, by making the other person aware of the action that is causing you the feeling of anger.
This may work, but generally, it does not. Expressing anger with out being angry generally requires a master of civility, and most of us are not masters of our feelings. What generally happens is that while giving vent to angry feelings, the person goes head long into an argument. This normally does not dissapate anger, but rather the expression of anger tends to reinforce the feeling.
What then is the proper method for dealing with anger?
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the author of the famed Tanya, the "bible" of the Chassidic movement, explains in the Tanya the problem of anger as a manifestation of not seeing G-d in everything.
One of the basic tenets of our belief is that there is nothing that happens in this universe that happens by chance. Everything, from the leaves that fall from the tree and lands on the ground to the movements of the giant planets are all directed by G-d.
If a person were to have perfect faith in G-d, then he would see every event that came to him as an extension of G-d running the world. This means that every action that a person perceives is merely an extension of G-d's will and activity in the world.
Since we know that G-d is the essence of good, that nothing comes from G-d that is not good, it is merely our perception of events that are colored by our human eyes and desires to appear that they are not from G-d. Yet, as we have stated, if a person were to have the perfect belief (which we do not have) then we would perceive those actions that anger us, as being sent to us by G-d for a purpose. It would then be incumbent upon us to meditate on this to understand the reason that G-d sent this to us.
Unfortunately, we are basically human. We can not achieve perfection. Yet there is a technique that helps us recognize that all things do come from G-d. This is called meditation. No, not the eastern meditation where one contemplates some nonsensical chant, but a reflective looking into our own personal life and seeing how G-d has engineered our life to fit His will.
At first it may seem a bit awkward to look into your personal life and see how the chance occurrences have changed your life, but this is what it takes. The more time that you spend in contemplative thought, the more you use your spare time to see G-d's workings in your life, the easier it will be to see those provoking events as being a manifestation of G-d's will.
Concurrently, as you develop this view on life, you become more settled in your emotions for you realize that truly G-d is running the world, not you. He is the one who decides what will happen, not you. You will become more serene and accepting of "bad" events, realizing that there is a divine plan.
This is the Jewish method of character control.
from the November 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine