Do you become consumed with anger and can’t find relief? Do you easily fly into a rage?
Have you ever had an angry outburst and then, in retrospect, realized it was unjustified? Some of us are known to have short fuses. Anger is an expressive emotion that is extremely difficult to master precisely because of its force and power. Anger is compared in the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism to fire. This is because fire grows and rages the more you feed it.
There are two approaches to dealing with anger – the short term and the long term.
The short term approach is to manage your anger in the moment. When you feel the tell-tale signs of wanting to barrel your way through a situation that you have no control over, notice the sensations in your body. What are you doing with your face, your jaw, your shoulders, your breathing, your stomach, your hands? Release them one by one as you remind yourself that you have no control over this situation. You can only do your part.
The long term approach calls for a change in perspective and working with your inner attitudes and beliefs. Ultimately, powers much bigger than us are running the world. We have to do our best to respond as co-creators. Letting go of the need to control is at the core of transforming anger and rage.
Often when people are consumed with anger, it’s usually one of two causes: either as children they’ve seen that as a coping mechanism of their parents-it became a “legitimate” way of venting, even though it’s destructive; or, they’re very self-focused, and if it doesn’t work exactly their way, they get upset and can’t handle it. It takes a bravery and accountability to evaluate yourself and see what the real sources of your anger are, beyond blaming others.
Simon Jacobson in his book Toward a Meaningful Life demonstrates a powerful alternative to anger: Living with purpose and faith. Feeling empowered by the unique trajectory of your life and a connection to a higher power. When you are living according to your purpose, you experience the kind of inner security that can never be threatened. Learn to transform your inner destructive fire into the kind of power that gives warmth and richness to your life.
In the history of the world, many battles have been fought. But perhaps the greatest battle of all is the one between good and evil. Between decency and depravity, between selflessness and selfishness.
We are all confronted with this battle, and we strive to be the best we can. We try to dedicate our lives to good works and we place great value on acts of charity and philanthropy. Above all, we teach our children to be virtuous and morally sound.
But where do our ethical standards come from? What is right and what is wrong? What is good and what is evil?
We live in a time when there seems to be no easy answer to these questions. Behavior that might be considered unacceptable to one group may be fine with another. Yesterday’s taboos are today’s everyday activities. There seems to be no universally accepted model of right and wrong; schools that were once a source of objective values have become ideological battlegrounds where values are neutralized so as not to discriminate against the feelings of any individual or group.
What we are often left with is a diluted form of moral relativism: Anything is acceptable as long as it doesn’t overtly hurt someone else. But is this standard high enough? In the name of “live and let live,” have we compromised our most basic sense of right and wrong? Ask yourself this simple question: Does such moral ambiguity ring true in your heart and soul?
This leads to an even broader question, which some people may have grown too timid to pose: Is there a real and absolute wrong and right? If not, why do human beings naturally feel positive about certain things and repelled by others? Even young children share this trait, an inner sense of right and wrong that is as strong as the sense of sight or hearing.
To lead a meaningful life, we must define good and evil and we must have an absolute value system that guides our conduct. Otherwise, we will constantly wonder why we should bother to dedicate our lives to the pursuit of goodness. When we teach our children right from wrong, we must be able to tell them — and ourselves — why such a distinction is necessary, and absolute.
In giving us the Bible, G-d provided mankind with a set of absolute laws and instructions, which define right and wrong and good and evil.
From G-d’s perspective, good and evil are forces that are, respectively, constructive and destructive. And they are defined as absolutely as the system they govern, just as healthy food nourishes the body and poison harms it. Just as evil is certain to hurt the soul, goodness is essential for the soul’s health.
So G-d’s instructions — which are manifest in our innate sense of right and wrong — are not merely a suggestion or even a command regarding how we should conduct our lives. Rather, it is a case of G-d, the creator of life, providing an instruction manual that details how to treat our body and soul so they function at their best.
Goodness, therefore, is not just a moral obligation; it is essential nourishment for your body and soul. Similarly, hurting another person is unacceptable not only because you have no right to do so, but because you are damaging yourself.
Looking at good and evil in this light also explains reward and punishment, which is essentially a system of cause and effect, a cosmic immune system. By committing good acts, you are further connecting yourself to G-d, thereby energizing your own soul; a wicked act, meanwhile, disconnects you from G-d and weakens your soul.
Virtuous behavior is not just an affair between men, but between man and G-d. War breaks out in the heart of man when the human soul becomes disconnected from G-d, the source of goodness. Why do men hate and destroy each other? Because their egos wish to deny that all of humanity comes from the same source, and should therefore be striving toward the same goal. Doing good means rising above your own needs, connecting with G-d, and extending this unity to your fellow man.
THE WISDOM OF THE REBBE
Epilogue: The Rebbe as The Messiah?
References and Notes