Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anger Management

Last week, in a Jewish online discussion group I happened to see a course offered in anger management. That this is an ever-growing problem in our community I find both sad and ironic. The essence of Judaism is to find the sweetness and G-dliness in the chance occurances and events of our lives.

As such I think that it would be informative to share with you what the Rambam says about anger: (Hilchos Deyos 2:3) "...Anger is such a detrimental character trait, that one should distance oneself from it to an extreme, and train oneself to not get angry even over something that one would be justified in getting upset about. And even in a case where one is in a position of authority (such as in the case of a boss, a parent, a teacher or a community leader), and wants to instill awe or fear upon those under him in order to instruct them how to behave, he should appear as if he really is angry, pretending to be so, and yet inside, remain calm and composed. Our sages tell us that those who get angry are considered like idol worshippers, and one who gets angry, if he is a scholar, he will lose his wisdom, and if he is a prophet, he will lose his prophecy. To angry people, their life is no life! Therefore our sages commanded us to distance ourselves from anger to such a degree that one trains oneself not to be affected by words that would usually provoke one to anger. For the way of the righteous is to be insulted and not insult, to hear themselves being embarrassed and not answer...."

As the verse says in Mishlei (Proverbs): "Know Him in all of your ways...." One who gets angry, in essence, denies that Ha-Shem is part of his life, for if everything comes from Him, and if He is the ultimate good, is it not shortsighted and childish to react to that which befalls us with anger? The fact that anger is so pervasive in our community is no less pathological than is overeating and obesity, as both reflect a lack of connectedness with Ha-Shem, and act as anesthetics for our perception of pain. Perhaps initially, in both cases, we can take therapeutic steps to resolve these imbalances (anger management and diet therapy), but I would suggest that far more important would be to address the pathogeneses, the root of these disharmonies, and remedially teach those who are afflicted with these illnesses how to better involve Him in their lives, searching within and refining our ability to perceive the constant blessings that we are showered with.

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