The Baha’i Faith counsels us to reduce the anger and wrath within our hearts and find ways to eradicate it from our souls by practicing non-violence:
Sanctify your ears from the idle talk of them that are the symbols of denial and the exponents of violence and anger. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 72.
Come and cast down your weapons of wrath, till unity is won! Come and in the Lord’s true path each one help each one. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 273.
All of the world’s great Faiths unanimously oppose the human expression of anger and rage toward others, and counsel us to avoid it like we would a ferocious beast.
But some have a different view, and that view has become a familiar meme in today’s pop psychology. They see the expression of anger as a right; regard it as healthy and cathartic; and say that suppressing your angry, hostile feelings can lead to harmful physical or psychological effects.
A few studies have found that artificially suppressing your anger can lead to higher blood pressure and an increased risk for heart attacks. Several researchers and scholars, in the latest development in this ever-evolving field, even overtly recommend expressing anger and wrath, saying that “getting it out” may reduce physiological stress in the short term.
But if you read those studies carefully, you’ll see that this kind of free expression of wrath tends to also reinforce long-term patterns of aggressive, angry behavior, and lead to future outbursts and more permanent stress.
So whatever your view of this psychological debate, we do know that every time our well of inner anger overflows, we each face a choice: we can express our rage, which may lead to hostility and violence; or we can feel hostility and anger, but take no action, which usually involves withdrawal, resentment, passive-aggressiveness, etc. Interestingly, the research shows that both of these choices result in a build-up of aggrieved anger.
Or, we can make a third choice, and find ways to constructively turn our anger into something positive—which tends to reduce the long-term anger and resentment we feel. In other words, the third choice heals the anger, and the first two exacerbate it.
Baha’is try to forego the first two choices, and concentrate their energies on the third:
Let nothing grieve thee, and be thou angered at none. It behoveth thee to be content with the Will of God, and a true and loving and trusted friend to all the peoples of the earth, without any exceptions whatever. This is the quality of the sincere, the way of the saints, the emblem of those who believe in the unity of God … – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 25.
How can we actually do what Abdu’l-Baha recommends? As a start, the Baha’i teachings say, we could all attempt to follow these five relatively simple spiritual guidelines:
First, try your best to overlook the shortcomings you see in other people:
Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92.
Second, find ways to practice forgiveness when we’re hurt or injured:
We must look upon our enemies with a sin-covering eye and act with justice when confronted with any injustice whatsoever, forgive all, consider the whole of humanity as our own family, the whole earth as our own country, be sympathetic with all suffering, nurse the sick, offer a shelter to the exiled, help the poor and those in need, dress all wounds and share the happiness of each one. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 41.
Third, make an effort to stop backbiting and dwelling on the bad qualities of others:
Waste not your precious time in fault-finding and backbiting. Polish the surface of the mirrors of your hearts from the dross of human frailties. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West Volume 4, p. 104.
Fourth, search for, recognize and affirm the praiseworthy qualities you see in those you encounter:
One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections of the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 169.
Fifth, strive to be patient, kind and merciful to everyone who crosses your path:
… ye must show forth tenderness and love to every human being, even to your enemies, and welcome them all with unalloyed friendship, good cheer, and loving-kindness. – Ibid., p. 21.
If you incorporate these five spiritual practices into your daily reality, you’ll find that the anger, pain and resentment you feel will gradually diminish, making you a happier, healthier, non-violent soul.