My friend’s mother used to say, “Life is too short to be pissed off.” I learned of this at her memorial service and the meaning became even more poignant. Every day there are things which can make us angry. We are cut off in traffic. Something is said that is thoughtless or mean. We are jealous of what our friends and neighbors have. Someone’s actions are irritating to us. When I have one of these natural human reactions, I try to stop and ask myself, “If this was my last hour on earth is this how I want to be spending it?” This question helps me to reprioritize the situation and shift my thought. Life is truly too short to spend time focusing on and experiencing negative emotions.
Buddha said, “We are not punished for our anger. We are punished by our anger.” I believe he was hinting at the same thing. It is not bad to be angry. At times, anger is a normal reaction. But holding on to our anger, sharing our anger with others so we can feel justified in our anger, and seeking revenge for our anger all cause us pain. And more importantly it takes us away from experiencing the great joys of this life. For how can we recognize and enjoy happiness and joy when we surround ourselves with hate and anger?
I heard a fable the other day. Two monks are walking next to a river. They come upon a woman dressed for her wedding and crying. The woman explains that her wedding is on the other side of the river, but she can not cross the river or she will ruin her dress. The monks do not know what they can do for her as it is against their vows to touch a woman. However as the woman continues to speak of her true love and her dilemma one of the monks is so moved that he picks up the woman and carries her across the river. The other monk is shocked and berates his fellow monk for not abstaining from touching a woman. For the five mile walk home, the second monk continues to admonish him for his actions. As they prepare for and begin to eat dinner, the second monk is still reprimanding the first monk. Finally the first monk turns to him and says, “I carried a woman across the river. You, however, have carried her all the way home.”
What are you carrying with you? What anger, resentment, or bitterness is consuming you? And most importantly, what are you missing today, in this very moment, because you are focused on your anger? It is time to ask yourself, if this is my last hour on earth is this what I want to be focusing on? Share with us a time that you held on to anger too long. Now is the time to let go of the feelings that are not serving you, that are not bringing you joy. Share with us how releasing this anger releases you and changes you in this very moment.