Spirit Sunday: Anger

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
-Buddha

Whatever spiritual path you follow, this is the truth: we all get angry sometimes. It may be a rational response or it may be completely irrational. When we are young, we may get angry at our parents for not letting us stay out later, at our teachers for “giving us” a bad grade and not being fair. We get angry at our siblings for ratting us out to our parents about sneaking out past curfew and telling them about the F we got on our math test. When we’re older, and supposedly wiser, we get angry at our significant other or spouse about any of a million things. We get angry at our children for a million more. Anger is a natural human emotion. It is ok to get angry. It is not ok to stay angry.

I admit. I’ve had to work on this. Not the getting angry part, but the not staying angry part. It’s hard to remember, especially when I can still remember every detail about why I’m angry, that I can’t hold onto that forever. I want to stay angry, sometimes, and use that anger. I want to bring it up later when I’m arguing with my husband. I really, really want to. But that’s not fair. What we’re arguing about has nothing to do with what I was mad about three weeks (or months) ago. That’s just fighting dirty.

I’ve been reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, for my book club. It’s not really a self-help book, but it is a nonfiction account of how Ms. Rubin went about trying to make her life happier in many ways. She talks about “fighting right” as one of the ways to make yourself happier. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be fights or arguments or misunderstandings. When there are, though, you can be more content within yourself knowing that you stuck to the topic at hand and didn’t drag up all of the wrongs that you have been holding onto for all that time. Holding onto the anger, however small, really does only hurt yourself.

Tonight, take a deep breath and let it go. That’s what I’m going to try. Forgive, even if you can’t forget, and promise not to hold onto even a tiny piece of that anger. You’ll feel better, lighter. You can consider it your good deed for the day…just be sure you do the same good deed every day.

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