NotTakeAngerHow to Handle Other’s Anger

 Don’t take the gifts.

 This is a story I learned from my dear Buddhist friend, Nagy. I published it, without the commentary back in 2011:

A woman’s son left her to become one of the Buddha’s disciples. She confronted the Buddha and showered him with great anger because she was a widow, and her son had been her sole source of support. She poured out a great, virulent wrath in the Buddha’s face.

The monks watching were shocked that the Buddha said nothing to defend himself. After all, her son was taking active steps in the path towards the liberation – couldn’t she understand that?

When the woman left, they asked why he listened, did nothing, and, seemingly, took the abuse.

The Buddha said two things:

  1. She was suffering, and we must show compassion for all who suffer
  2. I did not have to accept her “gifts”

N.B. The story ends with the Buddha telling the son to go and take care of his mother and that he could always return to being a monk.

Isn’t that advice of the Buddha’s something that we all know? We must be compassionate and we needn’t accept other people’s rage. People only attack us when they feel their suffering is too great to shoulder. If we can understand this, then we need not take their gifts.

I often teach this lesson in my classes and follow it up like this:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tamaki/

I blow my nose into a tissue and then offer it to someone.

“Do you want this?” I ask. 

They say no, and I point out how similar this is to a situation in which someone offers their anger or an insult.

We don’t need to accept the “gifts.”

(While it probably needn’t be said, I will point out that responding to anger or insults with anger or insults is not the best path.)

I do this most easily with my own children. I can (often) compassionately listen to them rail against me. My daughter shouting, “I hate you. You are the worst dad in the whole entire world!” doesn’t throw off my day so much. I listen and allow her to vent. It’s more difficult to do this with my wife (of 18 years!). I am certain you too have people in your life whose ire you can take in greater and lesser extents. Nonetheless, this is a skill we all must cultivate. We all need to learn that we don’t need to accept the “gifts.”

Can you assume that anyone who gets angry at you is simply giving you gifts you don’t need?

#wisdom_biscuit: don’t take the gift (of other people’s anger).

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