"The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn't angry enough." - Bede Jarrett
I believe that I am allergic to anger. I cringe whenever I see someone lose his or her temper. I hate to see a parent yell at a child or a boss admonish his or her workers. My revulsion is immediate, and I have always considered my revulsion to be a good trait. There are many quotes from the Torah and the Talmud condemning anger. Likewise, when I occasionally hear someone praise their parents, "My mom never got angry at us," my response is "Wow! What a great human being!" Recently, however, I have begun to wonder.
Anger is a normal reaction, as natural and honest as sympathy or fear. Though it may be ugly to see someone lose their temper, perhaps those of us who avoid getting angry are really engaged in an subtle form of escapism. If I train myself to stay calm in the face of oppression, am I not stifling my own humanity? If I fail to protest evil, if I let my children pursue the path of least resistance, if I decline to admonish inefficient employees, am I not contributing to the decay of society? Have I stifled my own conscience?
An often quoted Talmudic statement provides: "When a person gets angry, it is as if he is worshipping an idol." The trouble is, however, that this passage does not exist. What the Talmud does say is: "He who rips his clothing or throws something in his anger, it is as if he worships idols." The Talmud teaches us the not so subtle distinction between the person who gets angry and the person who loses himself in his anger; while it is never correct to lose control, controlled anger may have its place.
This brings us to our current Pardes issue. When we get angry, are we displaying strength or weakness? Sensitivity or callousness? And when we deflect our anger, are we reacting maturely or out of cold-heartedness and indifference? The answer is crucial. The future of our society is at stake.
Note: As in all Pardes issues, many of the sources compiled were written many centuries ago and therefore reflect the thinking and culture of their times. However the concepts are eternal.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
How would you respond?
1 You have spent years working on controlling your temper with your children. One afternoon after school, you overhear your young children and their friends talking. One of the other kids describes to everyone the practical jokes that he has pulled on his teacher, and the calls that his parents have received from the school.
When your son asks how the child can continue such behavior, the child responds that while his parents may urge him to stop, he knows that they never get angry when the teacher calls to complain so they can't be that upset. You wonder, whether it is better to refrain from anger altogether, or to get angry in order to impress your children into doing the right thing?
2 Your friend is a virtual cannonball of anger. He rails against those causing world hunger, derides those who fail to help the disabled, and decries those who are stupid. He attends protest rallies, signs petitions and writes angry letters to the editor. You gingerly suggest that all of his anger is unhealthy and could give him a coronary. He responds that you are uncaring, and that, in any event, you are the one whose pent-up emotions are likely to result in an ulcer.
3 You are about to get engaged. You go to pick-up your fiancÚ from his class and see him in a heated argument with someone about the veracity of religion. He is very angry and seems to have lost his temper. Your intuitive response is that you don't want to marry a man who appears to lack the proper virtues. On further reflection, you find your fiancÚ's anger to be noble because he is defending a principle to which he is strongly committed.
4 After standing in queue for over forty-five minutes, you are finally close to the head of the line. You notice someone trying to cut into a line next to yours, but the interloper retreats when confronted with the anger of those in that line. The interloper starts moving in front of you. Rather than getting angry, you calmly, but firmly, insist that the person leave immediately. The person snickers in response and ignores your protestations. For hours thereafter you feel like a wimp.
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