Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Twelfth Day of Elul 5780
The Bible’s psalms were written thousands of years ago, but they capture timeless truths about human nature. One psalm teaches, “Give up anger, abandon fury, do not be vexed. It can only do harm” (Psalm 37:8).
Of course, no emotion is always bad. There are some things that should anger us, like injustice and intentional cruelty. But there are few emotional experiences that have greater potential for harm than unbridled anger.
Has this happened to you? You hear or experience something that triggers a reflex that causes your face to tighten and flush. Your heart begins to beat faster. At the same time, although you usually don’t notice it, your ability to process information and to monitor your behavior is compromised. You may have had this experience of “losing control,” speaking or acting hurtfully or aggressively in anger in ways that “only do harm.”
When people today talk about things they want to change about themselves, the one thing they say more than anything else is the ability to be patient and control anger. This may be because they recognize that anger has hurt their ability to form lasting, meaningful relationships. Being angry frequently, repeatedly, or constantly can also be deeply harmful to your physical health.
It is important to note that healthy expressions of anger are better than “bottling it up.” You can try saying (or even yelling), “I’m very angry right now! But this is not a good time to talk about it! I’m going to wait until I’m feeling calmer and we’ll talk then!” It may sound odd, but releasing anger in ways that express feelings without inflicting harm can save a relationship.
Unfortunately, there is no easy or simple solution to chronic, uncontrolled anger. Learning to “give up anger,” as the psalmist advises, requires hard work and a lot of self-forgiveness. Be patient and loving with yourself in learning to use time-outs, meditation, relaxation, humor, forgiveness, and even physical exercise (it really helps) to learn to release anger in healthy ways.
Practice for this day:
Recall a time when you were able to recover from feeling “out of control” with anger. What worked? Write down some notes about the strategies that work for you to release anger in ways that do not damage you and your relationships. Try practicing them when you notice yourself getting agitated, upset or angered.