The Anger Trap
What is it that sparks anger,
and what compels us to nourish it?
Source Material and References
Anger’s Honeyed Tip
Anger is said to have a honeyed tip and a poisoned root. That is, it’s like a dart that is sweet at the tip, but it’s just that bit of sweetness that allows us to believe that acting on anger is good, pleasurable. Unfortunately, acting on anger rarely works out well. It tends to snap back on us, causing great harm.
Nothing can tear apart friends, family or a social group more than anger. Because it is so destructive, the Buddha spent a great deal of time teaching on the dangers of this emotion. Let’s read to see what can we do to curb its dangers.
Etchings and Vipers!
We begin our exploration of anger with two suttas that describe how people are in relation to anger. The first sutta, ‘Etchings,’ describes those who are like lines drawn in stone, sand or water. Pro-tip: It’s best to be like a line drawn in water! Then, we look at anger as the viper it is.
What’s a ‘sectarian,’ you ask? Well, as a member of a group (sect) sectarians tend to see things their own way, and no other. In this way, they can kind of be unpleasant! We see this in this sutta, where blind men describe what an elephant is, and though they are blind, they’re sure they’ve get the whole picture. Hint: they don’t.
Ah, the nagging resentment. What can we do about it? Well, you see, resentments are only there if we feed them, nurture them, ‘re feel’ them. Because that’s what the actual word means: to feel again. While it may seem that we don’t have control over our resentments, the opposite is true! Watch to find out more.
We all know what irritation is. It’s like a mosquito bite that won’t stop itching. Has nothing to do with anger, right? Wrong! These small moments of irritation, being experienced over and over again, actually can condition us to meet experience with anger. The less room we make for anger in our lives, the less we’ll experience it.
For those who aren’t sure how the Buddha felt about anger, this sutta leaves no room for doubt. He just lays it out: “An angry person is ugly,” “An angry person kills with body or speech.” Wow! If this seems harsh, it may be helpful to reflect on times we’ve been around those overcome with anger. It’s never really pleasant, is it?!
Resentment — Who Need It?!
In this sutta, ‘Getting Rid of Resentment,’ we look at . . . getting rid of resentment! Most people have had at least one resentment in their lifetimes, so we know how much pain it can bring us. But why is letting go of it so hard for us?? Perhaps a more helpful question might be, what are we getting out of it. That leads to freedom.
Mad with anger, they fall into disgrace. Relatives, friends, and loved ones avoid an irritable person. AN 7.6
Patience is the Reward
There are those times when we think people have made us so angry, they’re not even worth of patience. Let ’em have it! But in this sutta, we learn that this, too, is reactivity, and while we may believe that we’ll feel better is we let our anger fly, the truth is, free-form anger is rarely helpful, and often hurts us in the end.
Roar it from the Rooftops!
We live in a time and place where people seem to take offence at anything, even if none was meant. Feeling affronted, there are those who will lie about us, our actions, and beliefs, in an attempt to turn people against us. Even Sariputta, the Buddha’s highest attendant, wasn’t free from cancel culture. How does he react??