Really sick of being insulted

As a liberal rabbi, I am so sick of being ridiculed and insulted by people on the religious right. I get so full of anger that I see red, and all I want to do is fight back. And then I remember traditional Jewish wisdom on giving in to anger.

Here’s Rabbi Jonathan Sacks summarizing several classical rabbinic sources on the dangers of letting anger be one’s master:

“The life of those who can’t control their anger is not a life,” [the sages] said (Pesahim 113b). Resh Lakish said, “When a person becomes angry, if he is a sage his wisdom departs from him; if he is a prophet his prophecy departs from him” (Pesahim 66b). Maimonides said that when someone becomes angry it is as if he has become an idolater (Hilkhot Deot 2: 3). (For the entire piece, visit here.)

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 – 2013.

The general understanding of these texts, as I’ve been taught them, is not that we should try to suppress or banish the experience of feeling anger; rather, that we should beware of letting it be our guide. We will rarely make good decisions while in an angry frame of mind.

The way in which I most struggle with anger is when I feel like I am being bullied or people I care about are. I feel that a lot, as do many people, in the Trump era. I feel it a lot in the way that right wing media personalities deride, mock, delegitimize, and speak with disgust about political and religious progressives.

I also have a strong knee-jerk to hearing people just flat out lie, which the right wing media and politicians have been doing with impunity now for decades. And I have a strong reaction to witnessing people repeat lies, which is basically the right wing (and part of the far left) on Facebook all the time.

What I don’t know how to do well is handle my anger in those situations. I feel the desire to fight the feelings of helplessness, which feel like they are crushing me. Since I like to write, often my instinct is to write something rebutting the thing that’s gotten my goat. Sometimes I do, and feel good about it later. Sometimes I regret the trouble and energy I end up needing to deal with the aftermath of doing so.


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