There is a saying attributed to Buddha that says, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I think that is a most telling perspective in that, typically, the person who is harmed most by anger is the person who harbors it. There are times when being angry is justified, and times when anger is important as a sign that something needs to change. But anger in itself is not helpful and does not solve anything.
What if you approached every situation that caused you to be angry with an attitude of forgiveness? What if you saw the situation from another perspective? Even if the situation was created out of malice, or some nefarious reason, is there something good that can come from it? Whether you find certainty about the relationship so you know where you really stand with that person, or insight about the situation so you are better informed and can then make better decisions, or fresh knowledge about yourself that allows you to learn something to better approach future situations, what good can come from this clarity?
Anger arises when something is not aligned with our expectations. Who can we forgive: Ourselves for allowing us to get into the situation; the other person for getting us into the situation or causing it; or even ourselves for having unrealistic expectations? It is liberating to truly forgive and be at peace with the person or situation that is out of alignment with our expectations. It is even more liberating to forgive ourselves for having such expectations to begin with.
For full disclosure, I have a small number of people who make me angry. At times it seems that I hang onto that anger for some righteous, indignant reason. Sometimes it feels good to be mad! However in the long term it is like holding onto that poison that I wish the other person would drink, but the only person experiencing the poison is me. I poison myself. Once I realize that, I can stop drinking the vile concoction. I am not saying it is easy to convert the anger to something more productive. It takes work, intentionality, and practice. The more we practice it, the smoother and more ingrained the process will be for our brains, so we won’t be drinking our own poison any longer than necessary. In finding empathy and seeing things from the other’s point of view I was able to get to a place of peace with a couple of those folks. It was not in looking for evidence to justify my anger. And that is a much nicer reality to be in.
Who are those people around you who seem never to get ruffled? Do you think their lives have any less drama, turmoil or unmet expectations? Or do you think they deal with those things differently? If you exercise that muscle to forgive, the person who will benefit the most is YOU.
My wish for you is Peace. It can come from having an attitude of forgiveness instead of anger.