Thursday, December 4, 2008

Promises

While thumbing through the books in my library looking for something seasonal to read, I found something I placed within the pages of a special book awhile back. The book is, Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh. What I found was a flattened foil Dove chocolate candy wrapper. On the inside of the wrapper were the words:

Keep the promises you make to yourself.


The wrapper was serving as a bookmark for the chapter entitled, Putting Out the Fire of Anger. I think I have learned through the years something about the serendipity of events. I was struck by the fact that I had just experienced a situation about the fire of anger being put out, at least from the former size of the blaze. That led me to thinking about how at times something that has angered us, or someone we care about, had been silently forgotten. Then, almost by chance, we discover it again in its new state of being.

This note, serving as the bookmark, reminded me of a past anger I had held that was quite deep. At the time the event occurred I promised myself I would not get into a situation like that again. I had worked to clear the negative emotions and to do outwardly what I could to put out the fire. When anger comes about between two or more persons, that fire may not really be out and the atmosphere cleared and ready for rebuilding until the parties can meet and come to understand how to proceed. In some cases only one party to the event will make the effort.

Promising not to get into such a situation again is almost pointless if one does not really resolve the conditions that brought out the anger in the first place. It is not so much a matter of what the other person does or does not do. It is a matter of what you do. You cannot control the behavior of another person. Trying to get them to change what they are doing could only make things worse. And we kid ourselves if we think that trying to make them feel guilty will have any positive effect on us. Our job is to change our own attitude by examining how we might have acted differently in the situation. Then our promise to ourselves includes not making the same mistakes again. It may also include resolving to be more sensitive to what is actually happening in a situation. If the other person comes forward in an attempt at resolution that is “frosting on the cake.” Relish the occasion and do whatever it takes to keep the promises you make to yourself, to put out the fire of anger.

2 comments:

The Logisitician said...

Whether rightly or wrongly, I have generally consider anger to be a wasted and unproductive emotion on three different levels. First, by simply not responding, and thinking about the circumstance for a tad longer, I usually find a constructive way to deal with the situation. Anger virtually always gets someone off their game, and thus distracted.;

Second, as a general proposition, I find that I was responsible for having placed myself in that situation, and thus I bear primary responsibililty for the incident, not any other parties.

Finally, the way in which someone behaves before us frequently has nothing to do with us, and more about years of their personal experiences before they ever met us.

Dan Perin said...

I agree with the points you are making, especially that anger gets us off our game. Of course, it can also be the factor that gets us to realize a problem needing action is occurring.
Yes, we attract incidents. It is also true that each person involved has a part to play that taken together can bring more satisfying results than working in isolation.
On point three, I think interaction is a combination of individual action and the joint event that has brought us together.
Thanks for sharing!