We know it in our hearts, but we still fall prey to it, probably many, many times in a life.
Red, vicious, smoldering, fiery anger. At people. At unfair things. At the world. Ultimately, at ourselves.
The words below were written by Robert Thurman, the internationally known scholar and expert on religion, spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism.
Thurman, in Love Your Enemies, puts it into such startlingly sensible language: anger is an addiction. Addiction is bad for you. Do not rationalize your anger. Even when you really believe your anger is justified.
There is such beauty and clarity here:
Anger is the wish to obliterate the target. It is the hot flash of destructive momentum that makes people lash out and, in too many cases, recklessly destroy lives, destroy the environment, destroy the very way of life of those perceived to be the enemy.
In the Buddhist teachings, it is said that one moment of hatred against an enlightened being produces eons of negative effects, leading the hating person into a season in hell.
Anger is like a powerful addiction. We’re addicted to anger as a state of being and a way of acting in the world. But if we are to have any peace, we must recognize hatred and anger as potentially lethal compulsions that we have to kick.
Like any addict, we have to realize the full power of these mental impulses in order to truly resolve to free ourselves from them.
We must not be confused by the thought that sometimes anger has a positive use, such as impelling us to take action against injustice.
In fact, critical judgment and ethical commitment is what impels us to act to correct injustice, and if anger goes along with them, it tends to make that action ineffective. But such kinds of rationalization are how addictive substances keep their hold on us. It would be like saying that because heroin is sometimes used for end-of-life palliative care, addiction to heroin is not all that bad.
We must decide that anger and hatred serve no useful purpose and that for all intents and purposes they are categorically destructive, even though sometimes their harmful effects do not appear immediately. Even if we do decide that anger is bad for us, like any addiction, to reach the point of resolving definitely to eliminate it, we need to know precisely what we’re dealing with.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman