It was a Thursday night and I was getting ready to work the midnight shift at a local grocery store, then nap for an hour and head to my morning college class. I just woke up from sleeping for two hours and I heard a fight in the living room of my house. The fight was between two of my family members – my sister and her husband. My sister just gave birth to her second child and she was holding her newborn while her husband was yelling at her.
My sister was telling her husband to stay back, but the husband was blind with anger and tried to lay hands on my sister with the child in her arms. I, too, became blind with anger and threw a ceramic coffee cup on our tile floor – cracking the tile. I yelled at the both of them to calm down. The husband yelled out to me, “Eh, I don’t need your shit, either!” I told the husband, “My sister has your child in her arms – what do you think you’re doing?!”
On a different night, the husband was yelling at my sister again in a blind fit of anger. My mother was once the most peaceful woman I knew; however, my mother became blind with anger as well and started to bang on the fridge door, screaming, “I can’t take this anymore! I can’t take this anymore!”
The husband, of course, started to yell at my mother over a topic I can’t remember. In response to defending our mother, my brother yelled at the husband to leave the house. After the husband shared some threats and made an attempt to go at my sister, my brother chased him out of the house and threw a chair in his direction.
So far, no one was hurt in these debacles physically; however, my sister now has two children who are consistently crying and seeing their father put down their mother. Fast forward a few years, my sister had a third child and they all moved into the same home. My sister, at the time, was in the mindset of not believing in divorce and, through the years, tried all different avenues to save the marriage from counseling, getting her son help for his mental illnesses, and keeping the children happy and occupied.
In their new home; however, the husband became more unhinged and, at one point, yelled at their oldest child, “You’re the reason why this marriage is failing.” At a different point, he threw my sister to the ground a few times with the children watching in horror.
Ultimately, the husband decided to have an affair with another woman after being married to my sister for over twelve years, claiming she doesn’t make him happy anymore, and left his wife and children. My sister then accepted divorce was the only route to take.
When I witnessed all these events occur, and understanding my sister’s anger, I could not help but ask, “Why did these anger issues grow into this blazing inferno?”
My family and I, on top of helping our family member’s addiction issues, were also working to find peace between my sister and her husband. After the house fire my family suffered, the husband lost his job of 20 years. We helped him get a few different jobs; however, he got fired at each one until he finally settled at a local chain restaurant.
Something was not right with this level of anger in one person to allow everyone else in our family to be blind with anger was well. Something had to give.
No matter how many times my family and I helped this husband, no matter how supportive we were in the job transitions, and no matter how terrible his son’s mental issues became, we always showed patience and love to the children and offered room in our home for them to get ready to buy a house. Blinded by his anger, all this assistance was never enough and still found ways to blame us for how his life turned out. While my sister appreciated and thanked us for everything we did, the husband could not see this is what family does: support each other in times of need.
Being lost myself with the consistent chaos that preferred to grow everyday rather than die out, I came across a book by Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, named “Anger”, to find ways on how to manage all this. In Chapter 3 on pg 53, Hanh advises, “Peace, reconciliation and happiness begin with you. It is wrong to think that if the other person does not change or improve, then nothing can be improved”
Other faiths and religions of the world have also advised very similar teachings on anger. For example,
“Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes.” Bible, Proverbs 14:29
“Those who spend (in Allah’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allah loves Al-Muhsinoon (the good-doers).” Quran: Surah Al-e-Imran, Ayat 133-134
“Cruelty, material attachment, greed and anger are the four rivers of fire. Falling into them, one is burned, O Nanak! One is saved only by holding tight to good deeds” Sikhism, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 147.
An old Cherokee told his grandson, “my son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth. The boy thought about it and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed” Native American Proverb.
Psychology also categorizes anger as one of the five basic emotions of humanity along with happiness, sadness, anxiety, or disgust. Both in the faiths and religions of the world, so to does psychology confirm anger is a part of us. How we react to anger; however, anger management has evolved and varied itself throughout the history between faith and science.
Just as how Thich Nhat Hanh has shared a very powerful book on Anger management and how to grow peace and happiness, so to has the Bible, Quran, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and the proverbs of Native Americans too provide powerful statements and stories on the subject. Psychology, with all its empirical studies, have also provide other great avenues for anger management.
While my sister tried many ways to manage anger with her husband at the time, and seeing all the paths she took, I thought there must be a connection between sorrow, anger, peace, and happiness/content.
Anger is Natural for Humanity
In line with how psychology has defined anger as one of the base emotions of humanity, similarly have the religions of the world. Anger is defined, in the English Language as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. Anger has led to many families being divided, many nations to wage war, and even lead people to kill in the name of God or revenge. When managed, anger can be turned into determination to correct a wrong, remind us that instead of feeding anger, we must feed peace and happiness instead.
This leads me to consider that anger is more than this feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. Just as how sorrow is a weed that grows in the garden of our hearts as much as happiness/content is a seed, anger is like bamboo in the garden of our hearts. Bamboo grows quickly in many environments and can be used as food, building materials, and tools. Left unchecked; however, and bamboo can quickly grow like a weed and grow over any seeds of happiness we planted, blinding us ad inhibiting us from making sound decisions.
Instead of responding to my sister’s husband’s anger in kind with similar blind anger, I took to reading to find ways to understanding what can be done on this anger. Instead of divorcing her husband right away after being knocked to the ground, my sister sought anger management and marriage counseling for her husband first to mend their marriage. Just as how bamboo can be used as a sturdy foundation, my sister used her anger towards her ex-husband as a foundation to rebuild the bridge of love they once had.
Sadly, the husband did not see the bamboo to be used as a way to build bridges, but as a hearty plant that must continue to grow in his heart. To this day, he only sees his children once a month, if that, out of his own choice and preferences. No matter how many times my sister or her children reach out to the husband to spend time with the children, he has allowed the bamboo of anger to grow over the seeds of content and love for his children.
As sad as this situation was, and still is, my sister turned instead to use her anger at the husband to more economical means. Instead of allowing the bamboo to grow wildly, she used the bamboo to build bridges, make a stronger connection again with us as a family. We all share more laughs and grow the seeds of content and flowers of happiness as quickly as bamboo now.
Final Thoughts on Anger
Just as how the bible, over a thousand years ago, expressed the importance of controlling anger, so too have many psychology. Anger, left unchecked, can hide and wither away at the tree of content and the flowers of happiness growing in the garden of our hearts, and can even allow the weeds of sorrow to grow. With anger controlled, anger can be used to build bridges to The Higher Power, the Earth, and all Life Around us. When we understand how to use anger to build bridges, it could also assist in rebuilding bridges with family an lead to paths of forgiveness.
On a spiritual and psychological level, I find we will always have anger in our garden. Mind and heart must work as a team to balance this anger and use it for more constructive ways rather than destructive ways. Just as how praying with God allows us to see God/The Higher Power is always with us, working with anger allows us to see that anger is always with us and can be used outside of yelling and screaming.
What are your thoughts on anger?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and be safe and healthy