February 8, 2007

Book Review: Anger

Not to fear, I'm still on my way through my Christmas present, the Seven Deadly Sins Series. Yesterday I finished Robert Thurman's Anger.

This one was a treat because it's the first volume in the series that I would call a spiritual book. Now it's not written from a Christian perspective, Thurman being a practitioner, scholar, and popularizer of Buddhism, but this doesn't take away from the utility of his discussion for Christians.

Thurman helps us to understand why anger is harmful and why we should want to be rid of it, and then spends several short chapters outlining the practices of active patience that will help us to heal ourselves and others who harm themselves by being angry with us.

The whole discussion has the clean, plain, practical edge of Buddhist advice. For example:
It might be hard right away to feel compassion for someone who is trying to kill or harm you.You may be gripped by flight or fight reactions, you may practically need to defend yourself and have no time to feel sorry for your delusional attacker, but why bother to explode in anger? Save your energy for the most effective rational response to avoid the harm, to cool down the enemy with the most efficient means.

In the end the truth about anger shines forth: that it is a sign that we are too attached to ourselves, have absolutized our own being, and it hurts us more than anyone unfortunate enough to receive it.

Nice book, worth reading. Robert Thurman, incidentally, is father to the somewhat more famous and always fetching Uma Thurman.


Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Very interesting points about anger!! Something to keep in mind when I hang on to it, way too long...

Brother Charles said...

Thanks Barb! I was always worried about these book review posts because they never got comments. It's true about hanging on--we hold onto our angers like possessions, as if it would do us an extra wrong just to let go of it!

It's a high level of our Franciscan vocation to holy poverty. It's one thing to let go of things, but it gets a lot harder when we have to let go of our cherished feelings and attitudes!