Anger Comes from Fear?

I heard a man speak tonight at a meeting I went to. I went in expecting the meeting to be a disappointment and it went as expected. Perhaps to prepare the participants for what was to come, the meeting coordinators asked a rabbi to come give an introduction – a bit of Torah wisdom, they said.

Interestingly enough, the rabbi they asked to speak is one that is relatively new to the community (the rabbi of many years has resigned recently; he like several others choosing to take himself and his prayers elsewhere). So this man stood up and I listened to him, knowing that he was somewhat involved in some of the nastiness – not so much in the causing of it, but in ignoring it and helping find a way to increase the hurt it caused.

 I was raised on the principle that those who ignore evil claim a hand in promoting it. I believe this rabbi certainly helped promote it and was curious to see what he would say. He served his purpose well. The community, or much of it, is still saddened by the rabbi choosing to resign; this man stood up and announced the synagogue didn’t really need a rabbi – and if it did, he would apply for the job. He then suggested a “rabbinical council” be established.

The well known phrase “all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” is a principle that guides my life. This rabbi was one of many who stood by and let evil prevail – and then he stood up tonight to lecture the crowd. When he was finished, the meeting was every bit as nasty as I’d expected and resulted in continuing much of the same nonsense that has been for a long time. The politics of it was not a surprise, nor the failings of those who stood in silence while the actions of some were condoned…or at least ignored.

Though it would serve some right if I were to write about the nastiness that prompted this post, I rather focus now on a philosophical question the rabbi presented. He said, “anger comes from fear” and the phrase stuck in my mind. I can believe that anger could be a defense mechanism over something you fear, but no, I don’t accept that anger comes from fear.

You can be angry because you fear something; you can fear something that makes you angry. But no – there is not always a direct connection. Anger can result from abuse – as it does in this case. Anger can result from hypocrisy – as it does here as well.

Fear? No…fear is an interesting emotion and in some ways, it is actually the opposite of anger. I think fear cripples you while anger can spur you to action. Fear makes you doubt, perhaps makes you timid enough to accept injustice; anger can make you study a situation more carefully seeking a resolution.

Neither emotion sits well – we work to resolve both because neither is particularly healthy but fear is internal, I think, while anger is external. It is rarely possible to exorcise real fear because this is typically caused by events outside your control. The cause is usually external – the emotion buried deep inside (internal). I felt real fear when Elie went to war, on nights I knew he or Shmulik were “out there.” I felt real fear the night Israel went into Syria to bomb the makings of a nuclear site…I had the fear, even without the knowledge of what was happening. None of these things were in my control – none could be resolved by any action I could take. I felt fear when I lived in New York and a young man entered the building just after me and grabbed my necklace and ran. All these are externally caused; felt deep inside.

By contrast, anger is something you can control. I can choose to be angry about the actions of others – something one man did to hurt my family, lies told about something we never said, etc. – or I can choose to exorcise that anger with faith. I firmly believe that the injustices done in this world are part of an accounting. We do not know how this accounting is tallied but I believe it is just. It is therefore up to us to have the faith to trust this accounting rather than give in to the anger we feel.

The anger that comes from someone publicly wronging you – can be resolved – not by fear and not by lies, but by a faith deep enough to believe that all things happen for a reason, even the lies others tell. Where there is no justice delivered by others, you can deliver justice yourself by accepting and letting the anger wash away. Today, this man wins…but really, hasn’t he already lost more than he gained by these disgusting actions? The blessings in my life, my children, the wedding last year and now again this year – all these wash the anger away and help me to focus on the important things.

Years ago, a young boy ran into the path of my car. He smashed into the side of the car, denting it just above the wheel. The impact of this collision caused him to fall back, crack his skull, break his shoulder and get a concussion. Though he recuperated completely, I agonized for a long time wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent his being injured. Ultimately, I realized that had I been traveling any slower – he would have been in front of my car and likely crushed and killed, rather than hitting the side of my car and bouncing off. As badly as he was hurt, it could have been so much worse.

He hit my car; I didn’t hit him. He ran between a wall and a car – too short for me to see him as he ran without looking into the street. A friend who was there at the time came over to me and said that I had to ask myself why God had chosen for this to happen, to this boy, to me, at that time of the year (right before Rosh Hashana). Though I’ve lost a great deal of respect for this person since that time – he was one of several who stood and did nothing when evil lashed out at an innocent person – there was something in what he said that day.

If you believe that all things have a purpose and are part of a greater plan – the anger melts away. As the anger goes, there is acceptance. In this world and in the next, we all pay for what we do in this world. If you’ve been wronged – there is comfort in this concept and so the anger goes.

Does anger come from fear? No, it really doesn’t. It does come from a lack of faith, of trusting God to seek justice where man fails. How does this relate to being a soldier’s mother? I guess it doesn’t except that Elie and Shmulik are angry about the same situation. One son tells us to just leave the place that has caused us this pain; the second says to blow it up sky-high so that all can see the hypocrisy and the evil done. Tonight’s meeting sets me free – as I have not been in more than 8 months.

For all that time, I hoped for a resolution, a way out. Tonight’s meeting proved that was a false hope, proved that evil will triumph with the help of good people. Tonight, good people not only helped, they led the battle. I think as parents, our role is to teach our children to have faith – faith that where man often fails, God never does. I left the meeting angry but that melts away as I focus on the richness of what I do have.

Several friends stood by us tonight – as angry and disgusted as we were. Several called or sent us messages telling us that they care. Elie is getting married to a wonderful girl; Shmulik is happy; my daughter is a mother, thrilled with her baby and her husband. My family continues to grow.

As for anger – no – it doesn’t come from fear. It comes from a momentary loss of focus – when we forget, even for an instance, that there is a greater Hand at play.

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