What can we do to lessen the strength of anger and therefore avoid the suffering? For one, we can embrace the OPPOSITE: loving kindness (which is the opposite of anger and ill will). They more you contemplate, pray, and meditate on it, the more skill you will develop to ward off anger, by counterbalancing anger with its opposite emotion. (A big hug from your pet cat or dog could do the trick!)
One of the keys to achieving equanimity and peace is to cultivate as a prayer and meditation your strengthening of compassion. Recall that Compassion is identification of suffering and the unselfish desire to relieve suffering in yourself and others.
Note this key axiom: When someone is being a complete jerk and acting tyrannical, cruel, vicious, selfish, did you ever stop and wonder why? Many times, they are suffering just as much as you. Perhaps they were bullied as a child, or they were mistreated by their own mother or father. Maybe they just got roughed up emotionally at work, or by their spouses.
Did you ever wonder? You were probably too busy in your own world and how angry the other party made you feel to notice the person making you upset. If you are angry at someone, if you stop and ask yourself, “Perhaps they are having a very tough day, maybe they have a serious problem at home”, you will be more able to forgive the person and have compassion—and not be trapped in a circle of anger and ill-wishes.
The more angry you are, the more compassion you will need to experience to counteract the anger. Remember always the times that you yourself made someone else so angry. Having compassion is so important in life, because it allows us to understand the suffering in others, and commiserate with them. It changes our “perception” of others by contemplating the suffering they have gone through in their lives. Ultimately it lessens our anger towards others.
Regarding anger, if you cannot bring forth its opposite, “loving kindness”, and you cannot invoke compassion, then bring forth equanimity with the understanding that animals and people are just the way they are. There is a very limited amount that someone outside that person can change in their personality. Just being able to accept and then drop your anger is a valuable skill in itself. Without cultivating this skill, you are likely to go crazy yourself.
Recall that we have defined equanimity and bliss and peace in many ways, and that includes the appreciation and acceptance of being at peace and knowing there is a limit to what you can do. Equanimity involves the Lord’s Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
This involves just accepting that people are people and some people have been pushed to the point of ultimate despair and flipped or went off the deep end.
Finally, another strategy to avoid anger inside you is to actively avoid any situation which makes you unsettled. Physically and mentally, Avoidance is another key strategy. It does not mean running away. There may be times you can avoid people and situations which make you angry physically, but they are still in your mind. So mentally, you keep on bringing it up again and again, and it grows with a life of its own, stealing away your happy present moments. Try to put it aside and forget it. In time, it will disappear on its own. For example, if the shootings in Colorado made you angry, then physically and mentally put it out of your mind. DON’T Google stories about it. Don’t physically let your eyes pass over it in the morning paper.
Finally, a last approach to avoid ANGER getting a foothold in your life is to accept the laws in Galations 6:7 in the New Living Translation about the nature of Karma (or in Christianity, You Reap What you Sow):
“Don’t be misled–you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” – Galations 6
This law is repeated in every philosophy and every religion and every “adage” and even in the fortune cookies you ate at lunch. EVERYONE reaps what they sow. Contemplate and meditate on this. Nobody gets away with things. Nobody escapes the fruit of their actions. There is always JUSTICE. Sometimes, it takes a while, upon God and the Universe’s time.
Remember the idea in Buddhism also that we discussed called “dependent arising”. When you steal, cheat, abuse, hurt, bully anyone around you, “Have you ever in your own life gotten away with anything?” The answer is a resounding no. You have paid for all your transgressions. Think hard, if you did something wrong, you know you paid for it…probably at a price much greater than your transgression. If you did something you have not yet paid for, be ready. It’ll come. It comes for individuals the same as it comes for entire nations and entire civilizations.
Doing this exercise of contemplating Karma does not mean we become the proverbial ‘doormat’ or let anyone do to us injustices, it just means that at times there is nothing we can do. To alleviate the feelings of injustice, when you feel so angry and resentful, pray and meditate on God’s Law of Karma.
There is a saying,
“You can fool some of the people all of the time,
All of the people some of the time,
But NEVER, all of the people all of the time.”
People always get their “just desserts”. If you need any proof of this, look no further than the reflection on your mirror. Even the great Conquerors like Napolean, Hitler, Mussolini, Hussein…they all paid for their transgressions with long lasting immense misery.
Finally, watch something funny on You tube.com or read a funny cartoon book. Another opposing emotion of anger is Humor. A good political late night humorfest from Jay Leno or David Letterman can do miracles to an angry person. There are other active strategies, but here we just mentioned a few of them.