In our daily lives, we often encounter people who, because of their poor character, always seem to on the verge of exploding at any minute.
Others are very friendly and calm, tolerant and gentle, and have a humble attitude toward life.
Some people may say that laughter, anger, sadness, and happiness are simply the natural aspects of each person’s personality.
However, ancient sages understood that controlling the emotions, especially anger, is the secret to good health, freedom, and wisdom.
People in ancient China said, “Always be tolerant, you will gain peace and tranquility; always be humble, you will reach new horizons.” If a person has a noble character, he or she can tolerate others and avoid arguments even when there has been a misunderstanding. As such, they spare themselves many conflicts and worries and enjoy a much freer life.
In the same way, tolerance is the key to prosperity. The great philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.C.) said, “A lack of tolerance of small annoyances will ruin great projects.” Several centuries later, the great Chinese historian of the Western Han Dynasty, Sima Qian (145-90 B.C.) expressed a similar idea: “A little impatience jeopardizes a great strategy.”
In traditional Chinese culture, it is said that “Tolerance can bring many blessings, and harmony is the cause of incredible luck,” and that “Being perseverant, a person can overcome any difficulty; being tolerant, one can find supreme harmony.”
A famous saying from the “Song of One Hundred Tolerances,” written by Zhang Gongyi during the Tang Dynasty (7th-10th centuries A.D.), claims “A compassionate person tolerates what the common people find difficult to tolerate. A wise person tolerates what the common people cannot tolerate. Tolerating difficulties and persevering produces wealth. Tolerating solitude without seeking pleasure brings health.”
Lin Zexu (1785-1850), the governor of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), had a large sign hanging on the wall of his hallway which read “Control your wrath.”
One day, irritated by a commercial affair that he was dealing with, he could not master his fury and knocked a cup onto the floor. Looking at the sign, “Control your wrath,” he understood that he was in the wrong yet again, and when he saw his servant cleaning the mess up, he stopped him and tidied up himself to show his repentance.
In daily life, if a person has a tendency to lose their temper when dealing with others, it is an indication of a lack of self-control. A person who is always in a bad mood should learn from the example of Lin Zexu how to improve his or her self-control, to look inside themselves to recognize their mistakes, pay attention to the wisdom of “Control your wrath,” and use reason to persuade others.
One should never be indulgent with anger, which harms the self as much as others.
Anger versus Health
Ancient Chinese medicine provided profound insights into the origins of anger and its impact upon the human body. Its discoveries show that anger comes from frustration: that anger and frustration are twin emotions.
Frustration leads to the explosion of anger. This will in turn “consume vigor” and will cause “high temperatures in the liver,” and finally, will damage the organ; all these are well-known principles in Chinese cultural tradition.
There are many examples in daily life of people who have died of rage and anger because of a situation which they could not tolerate. In ancient China, this was not a minor concern, and the way to elevate one’s self beyond this feeling was a subject of great reflection.
In this respect, there is a very well-known subject from the period of the Three Kingdoms. Zhou Yu (175-210 A.D.), was a great general and military strategist who wanted to defeat Zhuge Liang (181-234 A.D.), the leader of a rival kingdom.
Zhou Yu was constantly searching for an opportunity to totally destroy his adversary, including by assassinating him. However, Zhuge Liang was always one step ahead of him.
One day, Zhou Yu organized a competition of witticisms, but this ended with his defeat and humiliation. In the heat of the moment, he became so angry and cried out with such desperation that he vomited blood and later died to due his frustration.
Many people’s anger comes from greed, envy, and egotism. There are many disputes between neighbors, colleagues, family members or even strangers in the street fighting over a small loss or gain. If one can let go of the desire for reputation or personal image, then anger will naturally diminish and one will no longer be subject to minor quibbles.
The scholars that followed Lao-Tzu and Buddha taught that, in fact, greed, jealousy, and selfishness, besides leading to anger or other actions that generate loss or the suffering of others, diminish our de (德). De is a light substance in the spiritual dimension which is obtained by doing good deeds or enduring suffering, and it can be exchanged for everything that can be obtained in life.
On the other side, the ye is a dark substance that accumulates from doing evil deeds and generating retribution. When bursting out in an attack of anger, one is giving the other person a de proportional to the suffering that he or she has generated.
Throughout the course of our lives, we are always encountering many irritations and annoyances. But if we can transform our angry mindset into a more compassionate and disinterested one, then we can convert anger into harmony and achieve a higher level of consciousness.
In ancient China, a great emphasis was placed on practicing tolerance, because a wise person does not allow anger or hatred to dominate their life.
Do not get angry with a person who has harmed you, since perhaps he or she has helped you temper your will. Be grateful for the person who has scorned you, as it has taught you to resist. A good spirit changes the environment and breaks down the barriers between people.
When one is able to face an insult with a warm smile and respond with a calm voice and heart, wisdom will naturally emerge.