14 Jun THE TOXICITY OF ANGER – PART TWO
Last week, spoke about the ill effects of anger. Rav Irving Bunim, Zt”l, Zy”a, had a beautiful way of expounding on this concept. He says, when a person is angry, trying to reason with him or her is like stepping on the gas pedal when the car is in park. No matter how hard you try, the car won’t budge. Similarly, no matter how logical your argument or how eloquently you articulate your position, it is a lesson in futility when you are talking to an angry person. Many a married couple would do well to internalize this lesson.
After discussing the many negative consequences of anger, it behooves us to realize that on the flipside, there is not much positive to be gained from this offensive trait. To help remember this, I created an acronym from the word anger. It goes like this: ANGER stands for Almost Nothing Ever Gets Rectified, for this is truly the case. Besides releasing tension and venting frustration, anger solves no problems nor does it mend any fences.
The Arizal writes that mikvah helps a person in conquering his tendency towards anger. Thus, he shows that the gematria of kaas, 150, is the equivalent of mikvah (149 plus the word itself). After seeing this, it dawned on me that ‘kaas’ is the exact gematria equivalent of Daf Yomi, which is also exactly 150. Indeed, our Sages tell us that there is no greater remedy for the maladies of one’s character than the learning of a Daf Gemora.
Let’s just make a quick summation. Anger, says Rashi, causes a person to err. It causes a person to forget their learning. It is extremely harmful to the body and it also causes the brain to be put on ‘pause.’ But, let me add one final angle to this horrific cocktail. Chazal teach us, “Kol hako’eis kol minei Gehenom sholtin bo – Whoever gets angry will need all the treatments of Gehenom.” Just as, in this world, there are many different medical treatments – radiation, chemotherapy, nuclear medicine, etc., so too in Gehenom there are many scary treatments. The person who does not temper his or her anger will sadly have to go through all the treatment rooms of hell to purify their souls.
Indeed Shlomo HaMelech tells us, “Kaas b’cheik ksil yanu’ach – anger rests in the bosom of the fool.” For it is only a fool who will let temper get the better of him. Shlomo HaMelech mentions the bosom since it is by our breast pocket that we keep items that we use most often such as eyeglasses, a checkbook, a daily planner, and so forth. The fool who handles life’s tense moments with anger figuratively keeps anger in his breast pocket.
I saw a quote from the Zohar in one of the commentaries on the Igeres HaRamban. “Kol ha koeis k’ilu oveid avodah zara – Whoever gets angry it is as if he worships idolatry.” The author of this commentary then adds a very frightening offshoot to this Zohar. He proposes that if one gets angry at a client or an employee, and profits through his anger, the money made is akin to a byproduct of idolatry – from which it is forbidden for benefit. And, he concludes, no good will come from such ill begotten gains.
In speaking with couples who are experiencing marital difficulties, I have heard from spouses how difficult it is to love a mate who often explodes in anger. They tell me in frustration and sadness, ‘How am I supposed to love a person who says such terrible things?’ or they say dejectedly, ‘I never have a moment’s peace for I never know when he or she is going to have the next tantrum.’ A spouse who is married to a partner who habitually shouts and explodes is like living in a dark tunnel with no end in sight.
I write this not to be used as a brandishing sword against one another, but rather that the reader should make a reality check. If you handle the vicissitudes of life or vents a full day’s frustrations or disappointments with the pressure release of anger, then you must know that you are harming not just yourself. To a very great extent you are ruining the lives of those you most cherish. By a good measure, our children learn how to deal with life’s challenges by watching their parents deal with these very same challenges. If we give free and unchecked rein to our angry emotions, then this is the legacy that we are giving to our children to practice in their homes. This is oh, so scary when we bear in mind that the younger generation has an even shorter tolerance span than we do. It is therefore of mighty importance that we exhibit to our children proper communication, the talent of compromise, the courage of apologizing, and the power of silence. These tools not only allow us to sidestep the harmful effects of anger, but they will bring much more happiness in our married lives, and create a meaningful legacy for our descendants.
May it be the will of Hashem that in the merit of our ethical studies, He bless us with a cheerful and pleasant temperament, to enjoy many years of good health, happiness, and everything wonderful.