6 Jewish Ways to Respond to Anger
Practical tools for anger management.
1. Realize you’re not in control.
Our sages refer to anger as idolatry (Maimonides - Laws of Behavior 2:2). When you think you’re Master of the Universe and things inexplicably don’t bend to your will, you explode. “This is my lane buddy, get out of my way!”
You’re not God. Be humble and realize you’re not in control.
2. Give yourself a time out.
When we’re angry, we are not rational. We say things we don’t mean to say. And we are capable of doing terrible things that we normally would never consider doing. That’s why the Talmud tells us not to discipline our kids when angry; we’re not being objective and at that moment any action is not for the sake of the child (Talmud - Moed Katan 17a).
So remove yourself from the situation, count to 10, breathe deeply, cool off and get a grip. It’s okay to go to bed angry.
3. Release your anger: write a letter.
Keeping your anger all bottled up creates stress and an internal pressure cooker that at some point will erupt, releasing itself in a negative way. You can get if off your chest by writing an uncensored letter to the person you’re angry at. Express how you really feel; don’t hold back. Then rip up the letter. This is for your eyes only.
4. Use anger as your teacher.
What’s really making you angry? What does it trigger inside of you? What message are you taking from this hurt? Anger is often a result of deeper frustrations, and based on a distorted view of the situation. Figure out what is triggering your anger and evaluate objectively if you’re reading the situation right.
Forgiveness does not mean condoning or justifying any misdeeds. It means seeing the person who hurt you as a hurt person. It’s giving up your desire for revenge. It's untying the knots that keep you emotionally entwined and prevent you from healing.
6. Everything God does is for the good.
One of Rabbi Akiva’s maxims is "All that the Merciful One does, He does for good" (Talmud - Brachot 60b). Everything God does is out of love; it’s for our good. We may not be able to see the big picture right now, especially in the midst of anger, but stop and ask yourself: “Why do I need this right now? How is this for my ultimate good?” The answer may surprise you.
With thanks to Yvette Miller