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You are tense. I am sorry. But, that is not my problem.
You’re tense. That’s yours.
I’m at Trader Joe’s checking out.
This is not the first “a-ha” moments I’ve had checking out at Trader Joe’s.
Luis, a jovial man I’ve gotten to know a bit, asked as part of the exchange of pleasantries, “Rabbi, did you find everything okay today?”
“Actually, I was looking for the vegetarian orange chicken.”
“Oh, we don’t carry that anymore. We haven’t for a while….”
“Aw, that’s too bad…I liked it.”
“You know, some people have gotten really upset.”
“What?! They’ve gotten upset?”
“Well, some people have gotten really upset that we don’t carry it anymore.”
“You’re kidding, me right?”
“No, somebody was yelling that it was their favorite and…”
“I think they had other things going on.”
“Ha, I guess so.”
Note: The item is back in stock.
Anger often is displaced.
If you’re yelling at the clerk at Trader Joe’s because the friendly conglomerate is no longer stocking your favorite vegetarian orange chicken, you had some anger before you went into Trader Joe’s.
Here’s how I understand this:
If my humming annoys you, if my merging into your lane in traffic annoys you, if the way that I breathe annoys you, chances are you were annoyed before I was humming, breathing in your presence, or merged into your lane of traffic.
You were already annoyed, because if you weren’t already annoyed, my humming, my breathing, and my merging wouldn’t upset you.
If you are annoyed by my simple actions, you were already annoyed, and that means I don’t have to take your projecting your anger on me.
Not taking in other people’s anger isn’t an easy lesson to learn.
It’s not so easy to see other people being frustrated at us – especially when they say, “You did this to me!”
It’s not so easy to see that we aren’t actually the cause of their irritation.
Anyone can be angry; this is easy.
But to be angry at the right person,
at the right time,
in the right amount,
and for the right reason,
this is not easy.
And this is not something that everyone can do.
The goal is for us to learn to get angry at the right person, at the right time, in the right amount, and for the right reason.
And, we need to remember that not everyone can do this.
I like to believe they are still learning to do it.
And, while they are still learning it, it is incumbent upon me to be patient.
They are going to get mad at me. They will do anger wrong. They will take out their frustrations – that have nothing to do with me – on me. They will take their frustrations out at the wrong time. They will be frustrated with me in amounts unwarranted by my actions. And they will be frustrated with me for all the wrong reasons.
They will do this because they are human.
And this is what people do.
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HELLO, JEWS My four-year incarnation as a rabbi in the form most people would recognize began in 1997. I stood in front of 750-plus people to lead High Holy Day services at Temple Judea in Tarzana, California. This wealthy suburb of 40,000 named for the estate of...