CONTROL ANGER BEFORE IT CONTROLS YOU!
By Sherrie B. Miller
“One who is angry is considered to be an idol worshiper.” (Talmud)
Clearly, anger is a DANGEROUS state of mind. Anger can lead to lead to both physical and verbal abuse. Tempers rise, passions overwhelm us, and the mind and thought processes are completely and instantly neutralized. We can no longer think clearly. When we stop thinking, we stop being human!
Chazal teach us that to avoid being swept away by angry feelings, the hierarchy of “menschlech” behavior is firstly through thought, (using our mind), then emotions and only then can we properly spring into action. In Hebrew, the acronym for “moach” (mind), “lev” (heart/emotions), and “claiyot” (kidney, the symbol of action/behavior) is MeLeCh, King. By operating in light of this wise progression we achieve the regal identity and dignity of a king. When we act counter to this formula and confuse the order and give priority to our emotions we obtain, “lemech,” (fool) and when acting before thinking, I am “klum” (a nothing)!
But, what has anger got to do with idol worship?
It has a great deal to do with an attitude of entitlement; everything “should” be the way I like it to be. When things don’t go my way and I get irritated and blow up, I am really worshipping myself and my “right” to have all things the way I want them to be. Anger also implies that I do not believe in G-d who sometimes gives me challenges and tests to face in order for me to elevate myself and grow as a human being. If we truly believe in Hashem and realize that all He does is purposeful and beneficial, then it will help us to control our anger.
In this week’s Parsha, we see the effect of anger and its dire consequences on our greatest leader, Moshe Rabbeinu. Although B’nei Yisrael were clearly out of bounds with their constant complaints and bickering, Moshe’s anger and frustration led him to insult The People by calling them rebels and he hit the rock instead of speaking to it, as Hashem commanded. In Judasim there are no saints and without prevarication, the Torah informs us that even the Great Moshe Rabbeinu “lost his cool.”
This was most unbefitting of such an exceptional leader and it is for this reason, Chazal tell us, that Moshe was punished by not being admitted into the Holy Land. Many of our commentaries view the main offense of Moshe’s anger as the denigration of the Jewish People, which in turn caused Hashem much pain. Apparently this pain far exceeded His disapproval of Moshe’s disobeying the command to speak to the rock.
CONTROL YOUR ANGER BEFORE IT CONTROLS YOU!
If your date is late, you can blame, accuse and threaten him/her. You might say something like: “You are awful. If this happens again, we’re through!” This will undoubtedly hurt and provoke the receiver, exacerbating the problem when in fact it’s possible that there is a legitimate reason for the mishap.
Instead send an “I” message. An “I” message describes to the receiver what the problem is, how you feel about it and what your expectations are for the future.
Try using an “I” message: “When you…..,I feel….., and I would like you to/I’d appreciate if you…… (next time)” You might say: “When you are late and keep me waiting, I feel extremely hurt. I would appreciate if you could phone and let me know when to expect you.” Telling the other person how you feel will most likely evoke warm feelings of empathy and concern rather than defensiveness and counter accusations.
In this way, we take responsibility for our emotions and we are accountable for conveying our feelings with utmost respect for the other. This simple technique will go a long way in promoting our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and lead to improved and healthier relationships.
Sherrie B. Miller is a Jewish matchmaker on SawYouAtSinai and a dating coach in Jerusalem. She received her counseling degree from the Michlala in Jerusalem and an M.A. in Jewish Education from Touro College. Sherrie is certified by Midreshet Emunah and is accredited by the Rabbanut of Israel, to be a pre-marital couple’s counselor and Kallah teacher.