We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create
z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Spend a conversation mostly listening instead of talking, offering advice only if asked.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
A Person Who Is Hard To Anger And Easy To Appease Is A Pious Person
קשה לכעוס ונוח לרצות חסיד
Ka'sheh Lich'os V'Noach Lirtzos, Chassid
Perek Hai, Mishna Yud Daled
Story: (based on a true story)
Wanna hear about my week? I went to my piano student's house for her lesson and no one was home. I stood outside waiting. Five minutes turned into ten, then fifteen with no answer on the phone, no reply to my texts. I was getting angrier by the minute. After 20 minutes I left.
Next...has this ever happen to you? I was at the mall, looking for a parking space--you can guess the rest, right? I had my blinker on and I was waiting patiently, when another car zoomed in and took the space right out from under me! Anyone would get angry at that...but there's more...the selfish driver rolled down his window and shouted "too slow" at me. I thought my blood was going to boil.
I had a right to get angry several more times. My teenage daughter left the door to her room open so I could actually see what might have been the aftermath of a tornado. How many times did I have to tell her to clean her room?
And how about when I went in to work and they were waxing the floor in the hallway to my office, so I couldn't get in for an hour. Why didn't someone call to tell me?
And there have been more serious reasons to be angry. My 6 year old's camp counselor had my daughter in tears telling her she was too fat to go on the seesaw with another girl; the co-worker who took credit for a project I did that resulted in a bonus I didn't get; and, of course, listening to the news makes me angry on so many levels.
But, even though my anger is sometimes justified, I don't want my life filled with the bitterness of anger. I want a calmer existence. But how can I achieve that calmness when most of the time it's not my fault?
Anger is often described as a hot emotion--anger burns. So I'm trying to figure out ways to cool it down. One way is to analyze why something makes me angry. Just the cold-blooded thinking it through is often calming. So looking at the no-show piano student incident I could see two things: Not only was my time wasted, but now I was put in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether to charge for the lesson. Of course I was entitled to get paid for my time, but was that the mentchlach thing to do? I was also angry that I had to deal with that decision. Anger at my daughter and her messy room is all tied up with guilt over not having taught her to keep it clean, not being a good enough mother. And anger about the office not warning me about the floor cleaning is connected to insecurity about my importance at the office. Even anger at the news is partly due to my, very justifiable, fear. Understanding these underlying causes of anger might help me react more calmly in the future.
Sometimes anger spurs me to action, but the action is short-lived, sometimes with negative consequences. I want the action to be positive, with long-lasting effects. So, I must find a way to refrain from calling that camp counselor and raking her over the coals. That would satisfy me in the short term, but would not help my daughter or the counselor. I need to call the counselor, find out exactly what happened, explain how hurt my daughter is and ask the counselor to work it out with her. (And if I'm too angry to do that maybe I can get my husband to do it.) I also need to reassure my daughter. I might even be able to help her to learn to accept a sincere apology, if one is given.
I hope that doesn't sound like I think it's easy. It's a struggle, some days harder than others, but well worth it.
"...קשה לכעוס ונוח לרצות חסיד..."
"...Ka'sheh lich'os v'noach lirtzos, chassid..."
"...A person who is hard to anger and easy to appease is a pious person..."(Perek Hai, Mishna Yud Daled).
The mishna describes him as “pious”, a word that implies going beyond the norm. This is a level to which everyone can aspire realistically. For a person can train himself to see things in perspective and thus realize that hardly any situation is so serious as to cause him to lose himself.
When a person grows angry, he loses his wisdom, as occurred to Moshe Rabbainu on a few occasions. For instance, when Moshe grew angry at Elazar and Isamar during the inauguration of the Mishkan because they had not eaten all the sacrifices, Aharon had to remind Moshe of the relevant halacha (Vayikra 10). And, after Moshe chastised the Jews who were demanding water, calling them rebels, he erred and hit the rock, because, Rambam states, he had grown angry (Bamidbar 20).
But why does the mishna not reserve the use of the term “pious” for someone who never grows angry? The answer is that only an angel can eschew anger entirely. A human being, on the other hand, must be patient, but not to the point of allowing others to trample his rights and dignity.
Sometimes, in order to defend the honor of HaShem, a person is required to be angry. This was the case with Pinchas when Zimri ben Salu sinned flagrantly with Kozbi princess of Midyan in the sight of all the people. Pinchas acted not for his personal glory but on behalf of the honor of HaShem, and, as a result, HaShem rewarded him by elevating him to the k'huna. But since it is sometimes a mitzva to be angry, why does the mishna say that not becoming angry is a mark of piety?
The answer may be found in the words of the mishna. Even when such a person’s anger is justified, he is still hard to anger, for that emotion goes against his nature. He will do it if it is required, but it is not easy for him. And similarly, should the sinner repent of his evil ways, the pious man is easily appeased and quickly forgives him.
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options:
It seems that the Halacha says we "have a right to be angry" but that despite that right we should try to control the anger. What are the most effective techniques to move an angry response to a more productive one?
Does anger sometimes mask a different emotion? Why do we need to mask certain feelings?
Does it always help remove some of the anger when someone apologizes? Are there other ways that one can be appeased when angry?
Stretch of the Week:
Try to understand what's behind an angry response and replace it with a calmer one.