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I grew up with a violent alcoholic father and an abused mother, so I learned, from a very young age, that men had a right to their explosive anger and women had to stuff theirs if they didn’t want to be hurt.
Later, as an adult in therapy, I learned that anger turned inward by stuffing feelings becomes depression, which explained what I felt – but I still haven’t learned to overcome that ingrained childhood pattern, even though the Baha'i writings teach me that men and women are equal, and that it’s OK to be angry at an injustice.
In J.E. Esslemont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era we read this quotation from Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha'i Faith: “Jealousy consumeth the body and anger doth burn the liver: avoid these two as you would a lion.”
I’ve always thought that comparing anger and jealousy to a lion created an interesting and helpful analogy.
When I first read this quote, I used it to justify my avoidance of conflict and anger, and to continue stuffing them. Later, I pondered the meaning more deeply, through the lens of “fight or flight.” Some of us do many creative things to avoid anger – we stuff it and turn it into depression; we turn it on ourselves instead of the one to whom it belongs; or we displace it on those who are weaker. However, none of these strategies work.
Seldom do we look anger right in the eye, acknowledge its existence and then plan our strategy, which I imagine we would do if we were really confronted by a lion. If a lion entered my line of vision, I would ignore it or fight it at my peril. Instead, it would seem prudent for me to acknowledge it and then plan my retreat thoughtfully. It would help if I educated myself ahead of time on what to do if I wanted to emerge from the encounter alive.
So, I did an internet search on what to do when confronted by a lion, and this is what I found. I’ve related it to anger and jealousy through my comments in brackets.
How to Prevent a Lion Attack:
- Mountain lions tend to avoid people, so if one seems to be approaching, try to give it a chance to escape. (Don’t dwell on your anger and jealousy)
- Look the lion in the eyes if it continues to approach you. (Pay attention to your thoughts, recognize they’re coming from your lower nature and let them go, without dwelling on them.)
- Make loud noises. Showing your teeth and making growling noises may help. (Chant or intone the prayers and verses of God, out loud if you need to.)
- Make yourself appear bigger by raising up your jacket or other clothing and extending or holding up your arms. (Focus on your higher nature and the things that enlarge your soul, such as prayer, teaching, service.)
- Stand up straight and stick out your chest. (Recognize your nobility; know what leads to loftiness or abasement.)
- Pull children close, and if possible, put a small child on your shoulders to appear larger. If there are other adults, stand close together. (Get out of your routine and do things with other people – attend a Baha'i gathering; participate in a loving, unifying spiritual activity.)
- If you feel you can retreat, back away slowly, and remember to never turn your back to the animal. (Remain vigilant; constantly turn towards God, relying on His protection.)
- Use anything within reach as a weapon and try to avoid bending or kneeling to get it. Mace or pepper spray, sticks, branches, rocks, a knife. If you have a bicycle, you can hold it up as a shield. (Remember Baha’u’llah’s quote “Armed with the power of Thy love, nothing can ever hurt me …” A really good video on YouTube uses this quote)
- If the lion attacks, try to target an eye and jab it with your thumb (people who have done this have been successful) or use a weapon if available. (Refuse to let anger or jealousy “win” the battle.)
- Yell "lion!" or something specific instead of just "help!" (Consult with others, be specific, name and recognize your nemesis.)
When I feel myself getting angry or jealous, and remember to turn and face those feelings, I ask God for His assistance, protection and forgiveness – and then I forgive myself for falling into these traps, and I feel light as air, and smile often!
I’d love it if you were to add your thoughts!