Hurting in Your Heart
Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20 )
Unexpressed animosity does not go away.
We find an interesting mitzvah in this week's portion: "Don't hate your brother in your heart" (Leviticus 19:17). The Sages ask the obvious question: Why does the verse say "in your heart"? Where else does one hate?
The Sages explain that there are two ways of hating. You can feel animosity toward someone and not express it externally. You are very nice and very cordial - pleasant even. But deep down you feel anger and frustration at the person.
Alternatively you can express your hatred externally - through words and deeds. You can physically, verbally or emotionally abuse the person you do not like.
Most of us are not saints. When someone does something which hurts us - whether through negligence or with intent - it is hard for us not to feel upset and angry with that person. Perhaps we might even feel animosity. This is normal human emotion and there is nothing wrong with it. The question is how one deals with that emotion once one has it.
To repress the emotion and hate a person only "in your heart" is extremely unhealthy. Unexpressed animosity does not go away. If anything, it festers and grows. The Sages remind us of the story of Absalom who hated Amnon for raping his sister, Tamar. He did not express his hatred in any way and, after a period of time, he ended up killing Amnon.
So what do you do?
Juxtaposed to the command not to "hate in one's heart" is the command to rebuke others for wrongdoing. It's very simple. Tell the person you are upset. Don't abuse, express. Don't attack; explain the pain you're feeling.
When someone wrongs you, don't just let it go, telling yourself it is nothing. We are not that holy. You have to approach the person and talk through what happened. Express your anger and frustration. Make the person understand that you have been hurt, and that you are not trying to make him feel guilty. You merely want to get the emotion you are feeling out of your heart.
In England where I live, we're not so good at expressing emotions. But the alternative is repressed feelings of which we will eventually lose control. The idea of this commandment is to nip things in the bud. When you get the feeling out, it lessens it. When you express how you feel, it doesn't seem half as bad.