We are told all the time that we need to stand up for ourselves when people do us wrong. ”Don’t let people mess with you!” You know how it goes. But is it good advice? Only if they add to it that you shouldn’t get all ratchet chick. Sadly ”ratchet chick” is the way most people respond to injustice. What they don’t realize is that when they ”stand up for themselves” they are actually only harming themselves. Ego 1 – life 0.
If you want to live a harmonious life then you’ll have to be patient when people do you wrong. That means you’ll have to bite your tongue during moments of anger.
Let’s consider a typical ‘Moroccan woman’ dilemma. Say you’re throwing a birth party and your brother’s wife offered to take care of the cake. It turns out that your husband’s sister wanted to bake a cake herself, so she’s a bit disappointed. But hey your other sister in law was first. The result of her order is a picture perfect table at the entrance with pretty baby themed cakes.
Just little into the party, when only like a third of the guests have arrived, your husband’s sister tells the waitresses to cut and serve the cake. Your brother’s wife – the one who paid for the cake – and your mother see that and are like ”hold on, don’t cut the cake!” Your husband’s sister then says ”we need the cake for the coffee”. Now, in our culture cake is always the last round – even I know that. Besides, the cake table is decoration and there is always this video moment with the cake. You see a side of your sister in law you never knew. Your always so jolly sister in law is angry, stubborn and ready to fight (verbally). With her ”don’t tell me what to do” face on she tells the staff to continue cutting the €300 cake.
You’re baffled and realize you’re dealing with difficult people. Now what would you do?
- Get angry at her and tell your husband his sister is a jealous @#$%
2. Stay cool and walk away.
I’m guessing most people would say ”hell no, don’t mess with me”. But here’s what wrong with this thought: getting angry and starting a conflict is not strength, but a stupid decision made in the fit of rage. Remaining silent is not weakness but an act of wisdom, because instead of being led by emotions you are led by your mind. It’s about the consequences; not about who ‘wins’ in that moment.
Let’s consider the consequences of option A. So you’ve ruined your party by starting a fight. You set your husband against his sister or against yourself. Either way the entire family in law will get involved and that’s the start of a long, destructive war. Stubbornness against stubbornness. A life full of anger, fights, being evil and receiving evil. Your marriage will suffer. You will lose future babysitters and all kinds of lifesavers. You will deprive your kids from having a normal relationship with their family. You will miss out on a lot of support – and don’t say you don’t need people’s help, because you do. You will miss out on love and happiness. And probably worst of all: you will carry hatred in your heart. I’m not exaggerating one bit. This is how family feuds start.
In short: you explode. She explodes. Husband explodes. Everybody explodes. Relationship ruined. Marriage ruined. Life ruined. All because of cake. Was it worth it?
Now let’s consider option B. You chose to shut up. You give your brother’s wife an empathic look and tell her ‘’Never mind, we can’t change what happened.’’ Of course you feel angry, but you know anger is just a temporary feeling and rational decisions can’t be made based on how you feel at a certain moment. So you try not to think about it and let it ruin your party. The next time you sit together you can explain to her calmly that the cake wasn’t supposed to be served so fast because it was part of the decoration. I bet she will apologize. You forgive her and move on with life.
Ok so you didn’t stand up for yourself, but are the consequences of standing up for yourself really worth satisfying your ego for a moment? Just as trying to extinct spiders will cause a permanent mosquito problem – which is worse than having a spider in your room because mosquitos keep you awake at night and their bites feel itchy all day – so will bursting out in anger cause a bigger problem than the initial problem of a cake being cut too early. When I state it like this it sounds like a trivial thing… Well it is trivial! It just doesn’t feel trivial the moment it happens because feelings of anger have dominated reason. This is why you need to walk away and cool down.
You can choose to follow your brain or your ego. The first option will do your heart a favor; the other option will keep your heart pressure raised. Some people raise your blood pressure more often than others. The keyword is patience. Fighting evil with evil will only result in more evil, but if you respond with patience and kindness you will create more kindness. And if people are really persistent in doing you wrong – which I doubt – you can always back off a bit. Harmony is up to you. Just swallow your anger.
One thought on “The importance of swallowing your anger”
Wonderful article. But the example of a cake does not cover all situations.
Remaining silent may bring temporary happiness in your own life, but it is not he answer to social and economic injustice plaguing everyone around you.
Donald Trump decides to jail a 2 year old child just because she is undocumented, and you want me to stay silent over it?
A company denies me a job opportunity because they do not like my nationality or skin color even when I may be more qualified and experienced than their other candidates. And you want me to stay silent over it?
I am denied access to a social club, golf club or other members-only organizations because I did not go to the same private schools that they did. And you want me to stay silent over it?
No, that’s cowardice.
I agree one should not lose their cool despite feeling a frothing rage inside. But neither should one succumb and surrender to injustice.
It is better to keep the fire of revenge burning and wait for the right time to strike those down who wronged you.
Because revenge is a dish best served cold, sometimes it may be wise to swallow your anger.
* If somebody stole my career and future, the least I can do is NEVER talk to them again. EVER.
And when that person is in dire straits, I will be the first one to laugh at their misfortune. That is a guarantee!