SubHaana wa ta ‘alaa! Have you ever had a long day washing laundry, cooking dinner, and checking your children’s homework book when you notice somebody has entered the home? Imagine if that person enters without placing their shoes into the nearby rack, leaving muddy footprints across the freshly mopped floor! Aaargh! Do you choose to throw your hands in the air and yell until your face is red? What about a passive aggressive sulking session followed by negative comments and hinting complaints? Either option allows your emotions to boil over, and if left unchecked this could detrimentally impact your relationships with people you love.
We do not want anger to harm ourselves or others, because it tears up the fabric of families and communities. In Allah’s noble book we read Surat al Imran, 132-134, “And obey Allah and the Messenger that you may obtain mercy. And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden [i.e. Paradise] as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.” It is clear that the message of Islam places a high importance and reward upon dispelling anger and forgiving others. These ayat show us that refraining from anger and forgiving others ranks among those who spend it in the way of Allah and are rewarded with paradise!
When we encounter anger, we are encouraged to stop our anger, make dua, perform wudu, and forgive others. In Sahih Bukhari Sulaiman bin Surd (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates, “While I was sitting in the company of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, two men abused each other and the face of one of them became red with anger, and his jugular vein swelled (i.e. he became furious). And that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, ‘I know a word, the saying of which will cause him to relax, if he does say it. If he says: I seek refuge with Allah from Satan, then all his anger will go away.’ Some body said to him, ‘The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, ‘Seek refuge with Allah from Satan.’ The angry man said, ‘Am I mad?’”
Being angry over an incident can be beneficial if you tap your energy for productive tasks, facilitate positive change, communication of powerful messages, or identification of a problem so you can begin rectifying it. Nonetheless, unbridled rage spoils relationships, stifles cooperative solution building, stamps out dialogue, and overpowers essential collaboration that might otherwise have been solicited as strategies for reaching a common goal.
Essentially, anger is the result of failure to reach a desired goal (Bowness et al., 2008). Basically, you envision reaching a final destination – like a spotless kitchen floor, but a roadblock like muddy tracks prevents you from arriving at your destination. When you find those prints soiling the linoleum, your fury propels you to move on and overtake the roadblock. Anger can be negatively embodied as tantrums, seething, active rage, impulsive behavior, distorted perceptions and a host of actions that erode trust and breaks down relationships (Geroloff, 2000). Similarly someone that represses anger may interpret anger as being out of control, incompatible with love, impolite, or contrary to the essence of forgiveness (Gerloff, 2000). As a result of anger repression, some people feel victimized, helpless, stuck in an unfair situation, or even depressed. They fail to take steps to prevent roadblocks from recurring by completely ignoring their anger. According to a psychologist Dr. Hoskins in order to avoid regrets and positively manage anger, a person “feels the anger, identifies the desired outcome, and expresses feelings in a way that preserves relationships (Gerloff, 2000).”
When a heated topic arises and an argument ensues, take a few minutes for a time out. Dua,performing ablution, sitting, or lying down are chances for a break in which you can reflect. Do not lose sight of the panorama – keeping it in view puts things into perspective. You can weigh where it can be gauged on the scale of importance. You may need to consider whether your expectations are realistic or unreasonable – can a two year old really sit still for two hours while you have tea with guests? Is there a more appropriate time to discuss the issue? Think about whether you might feel better after a healthy dose of exercise – sometimes a walk in the cool, fresh air allows you to reflect and gives you space to think. If you are running behind on sleep or fatigued, would you approach it better with a well-rested mind?
When you feel the symptoms of anger – flushed face, pounding heart, rising blood pressure – cool it down with a relaxation technique. Whether your relaxation includes pausing to count to ten, sitting down for a cool drink, or lying down to close your eyes and imagine the ocean waves stretching out to greet you – you will come back refreshed. Once you have gathered your composure and are calm, think about the true problem at hand and try a level-headed approach to identifying possible solutions. Describe your feelings with “I” statements rather than blaming someone (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). For instance, you might say “I was frustrated that I did so much work only to find the floor muddy”, rather than, “you should have taken off your shoes!” Consider the situation from another angle; sometimes it may even become funny and you can use humor to ease the tension.
Ultimately, when you become angry you can manage your emotions with a variety of techniques. You can suppress it, express it, or calm it (Bowness et al., 2008). Basically, you can decide how you will control your anger in a positive manner, including 1) Bottling it up and setting it aside, 2) Channeling your anger into productive and positive activities like exercise, or 3) Quelling your anger by using relaxation techniques and conscious stress reduction. Additionally, you can reflect upon the feelings you are having as the anger builds. Tracing your thoughts allows you to identify what the problem is you are encountering, and think about the outcome you want. Then you can consider all the possible actions available, and think out the consequences of both positive and negative choices (Bowness, 2008).
Successful anger management entails making conscious decisions about positively recognizing your emotions of anger and taking steps toward your desired goal without creating harm for you or anyone else. When you weigh your options, you can select the route that most positively achieves arriving at your destination. The bottom line is expressing your anger skillfully and positively. Anger in and of itself is not harmful – it can be a motivator for change and an force that pushes you toward growth and solutions so long as it is experienced and expressed within appropriate boundaries and limits.
You may have a legitimate cause of anger but forgiveness elicits help and support in preventing an issue from occurring again. After all, we learn in Sahih Bukhari that Abu Huraira narrated: Allah’s Apostle sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “When Allah completed the creation, he wrote in His Book, which is with Him on His Throne, ‘My Mercy overpowers My anger.’” Furthermore, in Sahih Bukhari, the Book of Faith, we learn the Prophet Mohammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “None of you (truly) has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Part of our love for others should be the ability to put ourselves in their shoes, to consider their perspective, and to offer forgiveness and mercy when we could be angry. And no human being is more merciful than Allah, ArraHman, and on the Day of Reckoning we will all seek the mercy of ArraHeem!
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Gerloff, L. (2000). Anger Management. Mississippi RN, 62(4).
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In preparation for the hereafter.